Okay, I know you've heard about the trade that sent Matt Lindstrom to the Astros for right-handed starter Robert Bono, shortstop Luis Bryan and a player to be named later. It's not exactly the deal you were looking for after Houston lost both Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins in the past three days. Both of those guys are considerable upgrades over Lindstrom. Let me try and make you feel a little better about this trade.
For starters, let's look at his contract. Lindstrom will be under club control for another three seasons. Granted, those are three seasons of arbitration, but they shouldn't have to spend more than 15 million at the most over those three seasons. He'll probably get 2 million in arbitration for next year.
If anything, this makes Lindstrom more attractive than anyone else on the trade market. Who else were the Astros going to get for three years at controlled money? None of the free agents were going to sign for that little over that many years, nor would the Astros want to commit to any of them for that long.
Now, there's the little problem of Lindstrom's performance. He wasn't very good last season. At all. There is a great breakdown of Lindstrom's season performance here. Yes, he was unlucky, but he also didn't strand enough runners. His performance suggests he'll be a good closer, but probably not great. Over a full season, his Bill James projections show him with 26 saves, three losses and a 44/25 K/BB ratio. Not the best projection in the world, but it's workable.
What about this possibility? Chai-jen Lo starts the season as a late-inning reliever, pairing with Fulchino until he's used to pitching in high level situations in the majors. Then, if Lindstrom is struggling, they slot Lo into the closer's role and move Lindstrom into the eighth inning. Both Arias and Fulchino are also possibilities here, but Lo probably has the biggest upside of the three.
The other thing to consider is which prospects the Astros gave up to get Lindstrom:
Robert Bono, RHP — Bono is a 20-year old who was drafted out of high school as a catcher. He converted to pitching and has had a nice little career to this point. He's a nice prospect but isn't exciting. He does seem to have excellent control, but there is no evidence he's a hard thrower or can strike out enough people to be successful at higher levels. Remember, the South Atlantic League favored pitchers more than a little last season. Out of the five starters at Lexington (Lyles, Seaton, Dydalewicz, Greenwalt, Bono), he probably had the fourth-best upside. Plus, the Astros like righty David Duncan, who will probably slot into Bono's rotation spot at Corpus Christi.
Luis Bryan, SS — The 19-year old middle infielder made quite a few of Farmstros weekly best lists last season. He has one glaring hole in that he doesn't walk, at all. In 283 career plate appearances, Bryan walked 11 times and none last season with the GCL Astros. He is exactly the kind of player the Astros should be trading away for a guy like Lindstrom.
I completely agree with Baseball America's Ben Badler that neither of these guys could have been in the Astros Top 30 prospects next season. Since the PTBNL is actually the Astros top selection in the Rule V draft, this is a very easy trade to make and probably one of the reasons it came together so quickly.
There, did it work? Do you feel a little better about this deal? Well, good, that's what The Crawfish Boxes is here for. Just know that I don't like this any more than you do (especially since Wade apparently wants to trade for ANOTHER closer). I'm just putting on a brave face and soldiering on like a good fan. How about we pick out Lindstrom's entrance music? Wouldn't that be fun?