Considering the weak state of this year’s free agent class, it may be more interesting to look at what the Astros could acquire through the trade market. There is literally nothing to get excited about in the free agent pool. If the Astros are going to make a splash this winter, it will have to be through a big trade. The only problem with that is the Astros don’t have many tradable pieces. The names that have come up this winter are Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris, and Jed Lowrie.
I’ll try to look at a few teams that could use a short stop or starting pitcher, and look at positions those teams have depth in. I’ll also look at prospects from those teams that fit the mold of the type of prospects the Astros front office has shown a tendency to go after (former high draft picks, and also players who have seen their stock drop a bit). We also know that Luhnow would like to get both Major League ready talent and prospects in exchange for Harrell, Norris, or Lowrie. With all that in mind, let the wild speculation begin.
The Diamondbacks have been reported to be looking to swap Justin Upton or Trevor Bauer for a top flight, young shortstop. If the Diamondbacks are not able to find a top tier shortstop, they might become interested in players like Jed Lowrie. The Diamondbacks have a lot of pitching depth and could easily trade a guy like Josh Collmenter, who has pitched better at the major league level than a lot of people expected him to. He was never really a top prospect, but has been solid throughout his minor league career and so far in his major league career. Collmenter had an excellent rookie campaign in 2011, but there were some warning signs that the success was not sustainable. Though he did post a 3.38 ERA and an excellent 1.07 WHIP during that rookie campaign, it was fueled by a low BAPIP of .255 and also featured an unimpressive 5.83 K/9. After four horrible starts to start the2012 season, Collmenter was dropped out of the Diamondbacks rotation and put in the pen. After the move to the pen, Collmenter turned his season around, picked up 7 more starts, posted a much improve 8 K/9, and finished with a 3.69 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.
Because of the Diamondbacks depth at Starting Pitcher at both the Major League level and in the Minors, Arizona could also opt to offer Houston prospects like; LHP Andrew Chafin, a 2011 1st round pick that struck out 150 hitters in 122 IP in the California League last year, LHP David Holmberg, a 2009 2nd round pick who split last year between the California and Southern league, or RHP Anthony Meo, another guy with impressive strike out numbers in high A last season.
The Diamonbacks seem confident in Adam Eaton’s ability to man CF for them next year, which may make Gerrado Parra or AJ Pollock expendable in a trade for Jed Lowrie. Pollock was a first round pick in 2009 out of Notre Dame. In 2011, Pollock posted a .801 OPS in the Southern League. Last year he put up a .780 OPS in 400 PCL at bats and a .715 OPS in 81 at bats for the Diamondbacks.
Wild Prediction: Astros trade IF Jed Lowrie for LHP Andrew Chafin, LHP David Holmberg, and OF AJ Pollock
The Royals need SP and could really use a solid Major Leaguer like Lucas Harrell or Bud Norris. The Royals have graduated a lot of top flight talent the last two year from their minor league system, but the system is still really deep. The system also has a few players who have seen their stock drop due to injury, poor performance, or because they were passed up by other players within the organization. The Astros could potentially get more talent than a Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell would normally retrieve by taking a chance on a player or two whose stock is currently down.
The Royals could part with LHP John Lamb, who was a top 50 prospect prior to the 2011 season, when he went down with an injury that required Tommy John surgery. Lamb logged just 13 IP in 2012, but still has MOR upside.
Another fallen pitching prospect is LHP Michael Montgomery, a former 1st round pick and top prospect who has not pitched well the last two seasons. The Astros might be wise to ask for Montgomery to be part of a deal for either Harrell or Norris, as long as he is not the centerpiece of the deal coming back to the Astros.
Jason Adam is a nice pitching prospect in the Royals system that is over shadowed by better pitching prospects like Kyle Zimmer and Kyle Smith. Adam would also be a nice piece in any deal with Kansas City, but he is also not centerpiece material.
The Royals might be willing to deal middle infield prospect, Christian Colon. The Royals have a lot of depth at short stop with Alcides Escobar at the major league level and top prospects like Adalberto Mondesi and Orlando Calixte playing the position in the minors.
Wild Prediction: Astros trade Bud Norris to the Royals for OF Jeff Francoeur, RHP Bryan Brickhouse, and LHP John Lamb
Finally, the Cardinals could also use some help at Short Stop. The Cardinals have some interesting corner infielders who are blocked by David Freese and Allen Craig. The Cardinals would probably be willing to part with Matt Carpenter or the younger, less proven Matt Adams in a deal for Jed Lowrie.
The Cardinals also have a lot of high end pitching prospects ready to graduate to the Major Leagues. The Astros could possibly nab either Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal, depending on who the Cardinals value more. Or, the Astros could try for a package of players that include less Major League ready pitchers, Tyrell Jenkins, Jordan Swagert, or John Gast.
Wild Prediction: The Astros and Cardinals discuss a trade involving Jed Lowrie, but ultimately, the Astros decide Arizona's package is better and St. Louis focuses on a deal with Seattle that sends Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and Matt Adams to Seattle in exchange for Felix Hernandez.