In one fell swoop, the Houston Astros front office changed the narrative. Five hours ago, the offseason was dull, lifeless and boring. Every other team was making moves before the Winter Meetings but the Astros. That's lame, right?
Not anymore. One deal, announced via the team's Twitter account and a team release, presaged the biggest major league acquisition of Jeff Luhnow's tenure as Astros general manager.
Read that again. Jeff Luhnow pulled off a pretty big trade with no one in the media getting wind of it before the team announced it. That's amazing in itself.
The fact that Houston got in return a 20-something outfielder on a team-friendly deal for a young but troubled starter and a fifth outfielder is remarkable. Oh, and Luhnow made the Rockies include a player to be named, as an added benefit.
Will Fowler instantly be the best player on Houston's team? Probably not. He's got speed and a little power, so he makes a good top of the order bat. He can play defense relatively well, though the defensive metrics don't like him much. Bottom line, though, is Fowler is a major league player added to a roster sorely lacking in them.
Most of the chatter on social media since the deal happened is that the Rockies gave up too much for too little in return. Houston basically sold off a lost cause of a previous regime's top prospect and a try-hard guy who was great defensively but was stretched into an everyday role.
That's all it took to land a starting outfielder for this team. Earlier today, I jokingly said that Houston could land Oakland's Brett Anderson with Brandon Barnes. Turns out, I wasn't too far off from his trade value. Couldn't you see the Astros flipping Fowler to Oakland for Anderson and parts?
But, that's getting ahead of ourselves. Right now, let's focus on the fact that the Astros added to the roster without significantly weakening the 2014 team or using any of the prospect pipeline.
I'm a little in shock about that. But, we really shouldn't be with this front office. Time after time, Luhnow extracts maximum value from his trades. What's that? You don't think he can get value for Carlos Lee? Boom. Matt Dominguez. Oh, no one will take Happ and Brandon Lyon? Boom. Asher Wojciechowski and a handful of other solid prospects.
Don't tempt this front office, because they will get value out of every ounce of this roster.
What this trade signals now is that Houston is committed to improving the big league club. It does so in two ways. First, the Astros added payroll. For all of you naysayers out there who thought the Astros weren't going to spend, $7.35 million is nothing to sneeze at. That's, what, a third of last year's payroll?
And, it's probably not even all of the budget Luhnow had to work with. I can almost guarantee Luhnow will add a starting pitcher and two bullpen arms with the money he's got left. Easily.
Sure, most of you will still not be convinced that this front office and this ownership group is serious about spending money. Nothing I can do about that.
They did, though. They made a deal that took on significant salary and they gave up younger, cheaper players.
They also added to the 2014 roster with a player who figures to win them games. This is not a move made by a team looking for a fourth straight No. 1 overall pick. This is a move made by a team hoping to get better soon. Plus, Fowler is young enough to continue to be a part of the big league club for the next few years.
In other words, he can be a long-term piece for Houston. He fits the plan. He's part of The Process.
If the Astros were in it for the long, long term, they keep Lyles and hope he develops more. Instead, they leveraged him to a team needing young, cheap(er) starting pitching for an everyday player. I don't care how young he is, give me the position player every day of the week.
Now that I'm done gushing, let's get realistic. Dexter Fowler is not the answer to this team. He'll provide some value, giving Houston a third player capable of posting 3+ fWAR. He won't become the face of the franchise and he won't suddenly hit 25 home runs.
What Dexter Fowler is, however, is exciting.
Dexter Fowler is a start.