I was going to write something similar to what Brian McTaggart already did, looking at where the Astros stand at midseason. But, that thought depressed me too much to go through with it. Instead, I was very intrigued by this report by Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, talking about what the Detroit Tigers are thinking in terms of trades.
See, Detroit recently took over the lead in the American League Central, after the once-front running Cleveland Indians have regressed a bit. Unfortunately, Detroit's rotation is a bit lacking and they're being forced to turn to a "Furbush" to get through the next few weeks.
Which is exactly why they're looking for pitching right now. Add in that they're also looking for a left-hander and voila! A trade rumor immediately appears. I'm not opposed to Wandy getting traded; in fact, I think he's the most likely candidate.
So, let's break down what a possible deal with Detroit could look like, in this topsy-turvy world where Ed Wade could be making this his last trade as an Astros GM.
First things first, let's list the possible prospects Houston would be interested in.
Jacob Turner, right-handed pitcher - The top prospect in Detroit's system, Turner is a young fireballer who is having a decent season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. He's struck out 72 in 86 2/3 innings and has pretty good control on top of that. His best pitch is his fastball which he throws 92-94, but his curve isn't far behind. Turner is a Top 25 prospect in the majors, though, and probably wouldn't get included in a deal.
Andy Oliver, left-handed pitcher - You may remember Oliver from the drama surrounding his last years at Kentucky. The lefty was ruled ineligible because he talked with an agent about the draft following his junior year, fought the decision and was ultimately denied his appeal. That meant he went a year without pitching for anyone but the Witchita AirHogs before being drafted by Detroit last summer. Oliver even made the majors last season, but didn't pitch terribly well. He's currently at Triple-A, where's he's got a 5.00 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings. His problem seems to be in control, as he's walking guys at a clip around 4.00 BB/9.
Francisco Martinez, third baseman: An interesting guy, who's also reached Double-A at the ripe age of 20. Martinez was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in Detroit's system (ranked overall at No. 25 by Baseball America) this offseason. He's not going to be one of Tim's favorites, as his on-base percentage sits around .322 this season, but he shows power and a little bit of speed (though he gets caught a lot). He's also got the arm to play third, if the other parts of his defense can get cleaned up some. That doesn't appear to have happened yet, as he's made 22 errors so far this season at third.
Cale Iorg, shortstop: The Astros know his family a little bit, having drafted brother Eli in the second round a few years back. Cale plays shortstop, but can't hit a lick. BA's writeup suggests it's because he can't see breaking balls well enough to react to them. The reason he made it past short season ball with that skill set is that he's gifted with the glove. That might be enough for Houston to take a chance on him as a little Angel Sanchez insurance.
Casper Wells, outfielder: The first major leaguer we've gotten to on this list, Wells has appeared in 52 games for Detroit this season. He hasn't found as much success as last year, when he hit .322 with a .538 slugging percentage in 99 plate appearances. The 26-year old might be an intriguing piece to add in, giving the Astros a backup outfield bat with some pop. He can also play center field and is a bit of a power/speed combo guy, stealing 25 bases and hitting 25 home runs in the minors in 2008.
Robbie Weinhardt, right-hander: Had to throw in a reliever, didn't I? Weinhardt pitched in two games this season with the big league team before getting dropped all the way back to Double-A. He's having a heck of a time finding a rhythm this season, but the potential is still there. May be a nice buy-low option.
With that short list, what kinds of deals make the most sense? Before we start throwing out trade scenarios, let's get some parameters set up. Using that tried and true Trade Value Calculator, we can pinpoint Wandy's value. Because of his start to this season, let's tweak Wandy's expected WAR to 3.0 for this season, 3.5 for the two following and 3.0 for the final season of his contract. That leaves him with a surplus value of 16.7 million, which is still plenty valuable.
A quick refresher on the value of prospects shows us that a Top 25 pitcher is worth 15.9 million, a Grade B pitcher (Oliver) is worth 7.3 million, a Grade C+ pitcher 23 or older (Weinhardt) is worth 1.5 million and a Grade C hitter under 22 (Martinez) is worth 0.7 million. Add in values for Iorg and Wells at around 2 million (because of MLB experience) and we've got a framework for making deals.
Deal No. 1: Jacob Turner, Robbie Weinhardt and Cale Iorg for Wandy Rodriguez - In this trade, which is highly improbable, Houston gets a young power arm who's pitching at Double-A to pair with players like Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, J.D. Martinez and the next wave of Houston's talent. They also get a middle reliever, which Ed Wade loves and a serviceable bench infielder who may never hit. The money is a bit more than Wandy is worth (19.4 million to 16.9 million), but it appears Houston will play hardball on Wandy to get a premium deal. The only problem with this deal is it gives no room for error. Turner must pan out for the Astros to get much value at all out of it.
Deal No. 2: Andy Oliver, Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush for Wandy - This one makes a little more sense, as Oliver and Furbush are close to the majors, provide decent value, but wouldn't be crushing for Detroit to give up. In Martinez, the Astros get a player who is toolsy and has some upside, but hasn't tapped into that potential yet. Not a great trade value-wise, as Furbush's value is down right now, but it gives them some relatively quick return.
Deal No. 3: Oliver, Martinez, Wells and Casey Crosby for Wandy - Adding another new name to the mix, simply because Detroit doesn't have enough ammo outside of Turner to get an interesting deal done. This one comes close, though, as both Oliver and Crosby are Grade B guys. The knock on Crosby is that he's had some injury problems and there are questions on whether he can stick as a starter. Wells is also an interesting piece, as he provides some intriguing upside, but doesn't really have a place to play in Houston (unless Hunter Pence also gets moved). This one gets the Astros a value of 17 million, which may be pretty close to Wandy's value.
I could keep going, but those seem like three pretty even trades, going by the Trade Value Calculator. Would you make any of those deals, were you Ed Wade? Do you think any of them are realistic?