HOUSTON TX - JULY 24: Justin Maxwell #44 of the Houston Astros receives a high five from Dave Clark #35 after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Way to be Francisco Cordero, way to be....
1) Reacting to Wandy trade - Trades never bring back what you expect. Just look at what the Marlins got for Hanley Ramirez, maybe one of the best third basemen in the game. Sure, he's not hitting this year, but do you really think he won't? All it took was Nathan Eovaldi, who's been good but not great in his tenure in the big leagues, and minor leaguer Scott McGough, who is 22 in High A.
The point is, trade returns are a fluid thing.
What Houston got from Pittsburgh for Wandy wasn't overwhelming, but it probably was a better return than they got in the Toronto deal, or the Myers or Lee trades. If you were complaining about Luhnow not getting any major-league ready talent? He got one pitcher ready for the big leagues in Rudy Owens and an outfielder who could be ready in a year, maybe less.
Marc Hulet over at FanGraphs says that Colton Cain could end up being the highest upside guy in this trade. I think, though, that all three guys picked up for Wandy may be equally valuable. I like Robbie Grossman a lot, as his on-base skill is excellent and he can fill in at a position Houston needs soon. Owens strikes me as an able replacement for J.A. Happ right away with decent upside to eat innings later on.
On the surface, it's a good return. It's the best return Houston has gotten outside of Mark Melancon with this new front office. It won't wow anyone, but the players are all solid.
2) Who's the best pitcher on the staff? - Now that Wandy is gone, the question now becomes, who is the best Houston pitcher on the staff?
Right now, I'd argue that it's Lucas Harrell, and I think it may have been him for the past month, even before the Wandy deal. Harrell has a 2.18 ERA in his past five starts with a better strikeout rate than Wandy in the past 30 days.
Harrell's only real knock is the walk rate, but in the past two months, it's been dropping. The rise in his strikeout rate is probably not sustainable, considering he's a ground ball pitcher and has never really shown this kind of strikeout ability in the minors.
Still, if you're looking for a breakout pitcher on this staff, it's clearly Harrell. Norris could have been there, but has been not very good since May. So, Lucas Harrell, enjoy your No. 1 starter hat.
3) A pattern to player acquisitions - Look, let's not make too big a deal over the Houston front office and its fascination with the statistics. But, there definitely seems to be a pattern to their acquisitions in these trades.
Houston is going after pitchers with good walk rates, good strikeout rates (for the most part) without worrying about traditional scouting reports. That means they're picking up pitchers who may not be thought of as the best prospects, but could turn out to be better than their scouting reports.
They're also picking up catching prospects, which always have value, and focusing on hitters with good OBP skills. They're also grabbing shortstops when they can and filling in with high upside later on.
It's not a groundbreaking formula, as Terry Ryan talked about the Twins doing that for a while. But, if we're talking about getting guys who aren't universally well-regarded, I'd rather gamble on these kinds of skills than the more ephemeral "toolsy" prospects.