The holiday shopping season runs from Black Friday all the way up to Christmas Eve. This offseason the Astros got a late start on holiday shopping for the 2013 Astros club. A week to go before Christmas and the Astros had only made on significant move, trading Wilton Lopez to the Colorado Rockies for a pair of Alex's. This past week they finally made their first splash into the free agent pool signing Carlos Pena and Jose Veras, and then making another trade this time for John Ely. We can debate how good these moves were until our cheeks turn rose red but the fact of the matter is we won't know how good these gifts the Astros have given fans are until a few years from now; however, we do now how past shopping season transactions have.
With the help of Astros Daily, I searched and found the best deals made between the end of November and Christmas Eve in Astros franchise history. Using Baseball-Reference's version of WAR to guide me in ranking the holiday deals, I've put together the six best gifts the Astros have given fans.
I am taking an objective approach here so for trades I am subtracting the value of the players given up from the player(s) received to find the difference in WAR for the deal. I have included the negative WAR given up by the Astros and added it on to the positive value of the player received. This gives us a better picture of the deal in it's entirety and takes into account both sides of the deal. Giving up a player that produced positive value for the other team hurts the deal overall from the Astros perspective
For signings I am not subtracting because the Astros only had to give up money to acquire the player. It's a lot simplifier than my explanation and I think you'll see why as you move down the list. I wanted to keep this simple and fun for the holidays while still providing that analytical angle.
We'll start at the best deals and work our way down.
December 10, 1982, the Astros acquire Mike Scott from the New York Mets for Danny Heep - General Manager Al Rosen
Easily the best gift the Astros gave their fans. From 1983 to 1991 Scott produced 22.9 WAR pitching for the Astros. He won the Cy Young in 1986, finished second in 1989 and appeared in three All-Star games. He also had a 0.50 ERA in two 1986 playoff starts.
Danny Heep, as a reserve player, played in four seasons with the Mets producing a total of .6 WAR. Making the deal a 22.3 difference of WAR in the Astros favor. No other transaction during the holiday shopping season comes close.
November 27, 1978, the Astros acquire Alan Ashby from the Toronto Blue Jays for Joe Cannon, Pedro Hernandez and Mark Lemongello - General Manager Tal Smith
Ashby played 11 seasons with the Astros producing 6.5 WAR. He appeared in 965 games for the Astros batting .252 with a .324 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage. His offensive production from season to season ranged from average to above average while his defense was typically considered right around average for most of his time in Houston, according to Baseball Reference's defensive WAR.
On the flip side of that deal Cannon, Hernandez and Lemongello all provided -3.9 WAR for the Blue Jays. That is a 10.4 difference in WAR in the Astros favor.
December 16, 2003, the Astros sign free agent Andy Pettitte- General Manager Gerry Hunsicker
After spending nine years in New York Pettitte decided it was time for a change in scenery and signed with his hometown team for three years. During his time with the Astros he produced an 8.7 WAR and helped the team to it's first World Series appearance in franchise history. More importantly it helped open the door to getting Roger Clemens out of retirement and into a Houston uniform. Clemens would sign with the Astros a month later.
December 22, 1997, the Astros acquire Carl Everett from the New York Mets for John Hudek - General Manager Gerry Hunsicker
Not the most liked player, but man could he hit. In his two seasons with the Astros he produced an 8.8 WAR. On the other side of the deal Hudek produced only .2 WAR for the Mets. The difference in WAR for the deal was 8.6 in the Astros favor.
December 18, 2002, the Astros sign free agent Jeff Kent - General Manager Gerry Hunsicker
Kent was signed to a two year deal and ended up producing 6.3 WAR in his time with Houston. He helped the Astros win there first playoff series and then gave us this wonderful moment in the NLCS. During the 2004 NLCS he posted a 1.047 OPS overall, that homerun included.
December 14, 1999, the Astros acquire Adam Everett and Greg Miller from the Boston Red Sox for Carl Everett - General Manager Gerry Hunsicker
I have always though Adam Everett was under-appreciated by Astros fans who insisted on focusing on his offensive production. He was never close to average offensively, but man could he play some defense. Despite his below average offense he still managed to produce 11.4 WAR in his seven years with Houston. His 2006 is considered one of the best defensive seasons ever, tied for 12th All-Time among all positions and tied for sixth among shortstops with Jack Wilson.
Miller never made it out of the minors so he doesn't add anything to the WAR total. Carl Everett posted a 5.3 WAR in his time with the Red Sox which is why Adam Everett is so far down on this list. Just looking at players individually though Adam Everett is the second best holiday acquisition by the Astros behind Mike Scott.
Maybe a few years from now the Mark Melancon for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland deal or the Wilton Lopez for Alex White deal from this year will make the list.
Merry Christmas everyone!