I will preface this post by saying that this exercise is probably futile, as Jeff Luhnow has proven to be a wizard and I am a mere mortal. Having said that, I will try nonetheless. After this [pleasantly] surprising Dexter Fowler trade, one of my immediate thoughts was "What does this mean in the grand scheme of things?" There almost has to be a grand picture that Luhnow and company are painting here, and I am quite certain that this move was not made in a vacuum. Let us attempt to predict what the domino effect might be.
Trading away Jordan Lyles opens up a starting rotation spot. What we do not know; however, is who will fill that void. After shutting down Jarred Cosart for the remainder of the year, the Astros finished the 2013 season with the following starting pitchers: Erik Bedard (free agent, not expected to be back with the team), Jordan Lyles (just traded), Brad Peacock, Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer, and Paul Clemens. Out of that group, I think it is safe to say that Cosart and Oberholtzer pitched themselves into the 2014 rotation. Peacock's strong finish might also have given him a slight edge for a 2014 rotation spot. Still, that leaves us with 3 spots tentatively accounted for, and two vacancies to fill. There are no doubt a lot of question marks, and this trade adds another. Do the Astros continue the Keuchel and Clemens experiments, or do the Astros call upon their rich farm system for help? Is it possible that Mark Appel or Mike Foltynewicz break camp as Houston Astros to start the 2014 season? I think both would benefit from a little more seasoning, but maybe the front office disagrees. Or perhaps David Coleman was on to something when he suggested Brett Anderson would be an intriguing target this morning? Oh yeah, that Tanaka kid would look awfully good in an Astros uniform as well. As you can see, there are currently a lot more questions than answers. It will be very interesting to see who will be in the starting rotation to start the 2014 season.
This trade shakes up the outfield outlook as well, not only for this year, but for years to come. Dexter Fowler is 27 years old, and is in the middle of his prime. Pairing him with George Springer provides an exciting duo in the outfield. What about the final outfield spot, which at the moment seems to be LF? I believe L.J. Hoes played admirably after the Bud Norris trade. Maybe playing everyday would get him even more comfortable at the plate, and we might see an uptick in the power department. Or maybe the Astros want to go in the opposite direction and feel like Domingo Santana will be ready soon. How does an outfield of Santana, Fowler, and Springer sound? I know Chris Carter's play in the outfield last year was not very inspiring, but perhaps the Astros like the idea of Japhet Amador playing first and giving Carter a little more practice in LF next year? An outfield of Carter, Fowler, and Springer does not sound too bad either. Again, there are a lot of question marks and a lot of options that the front office and us as fans can consider. And we have a long off season to do so. In any case, the 2014 outfield looks to be markedly better than the 2013 outfield.
This trade is exciting in that while it addresses a glaring need, it also somehow make us more flexible to pull off a whole host of corresponding moves to consider. Even after setting the bar incredibly high, Luhnow and company continues to impress. So what dominoes do you think will fall next? Are there other trade targets or free agents that are now more appealing as a result of this trade? Care to guess what unfolds next in this great story called the off season? One thing is certain - expect the unexpected with this front office.
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