The trade deadline is still 7 weeks away, but I decided to cure some boredom and threw this together. It’s much harder to predict what Houston’s approach will be to this year’s trade deadline, as they (gasp) could actually be in the wild card hunt and (gasp) be a buyer, as opposed to years past when everyone knew they would be obvious sellers before May 1st. I touched on every player on Houston's 40 man roster.
Group A: "Can’t. He’s hurt."
Players: Jose Cisnero
Odds of being traded: 0%
Cisnero is a fringy major leaguer who just had season-ending surgery. He’s not getting traded.
Group B: "It would have to be a blockbuster that would cost you your job. Two words: Hershel. Walker."
Players: George Springer, Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Matt Dominguez
Odds of being traded: 1%
I’d be shocked if anyone from this group was traded because I feel pretty strongly that they are all in Luhnow’s long term plan. Cosart and Dominguez are probably the most likely to be moved, as Luhnow could seek upgrades in both the rotation (where Cosart will probably top out as a #3) and 3B (where Dominguez appears to be just slightly above average). Still, all of these players have tremendous upside/surplus value and if they were moved it would be as part of a blockbuster that would likely bring a superstar to Houston.
Group C: "He’s still young and I want to find out what he really is, so you’d have to overpay."
Players: Jon Villar, Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer, Robbie Grossman, Max Stassi, Alex White, Asher Wojciechowski, Collin McHugh
Odds of being traded: 5%
This group of players consists of prospects whose future value is very undefined. All of them have a chance to be very good players, but for one reason or another they haven’t quite solidified yet. Villar could be traded since Correa is on his way. The pitching depth in the system means Obie, Peacock, White, and Wojo could all be moved and the impact to Houston’s short and long term roster would be minimal. There are others in the system (Santana, Tucker, Wates, Hoes) that could seemingly step in for Grossman right away. If the front office doesn’t see Stassi as the future everyday catcher, it might be best to move him now. McHugh may not be a prospect at this age, but he’s in this group because he is in the midst of a breakout season and it might be wise to capitalize on it, especially if it might not be sustainable. That said, I don’t think Luhnow has any intention of letting any of these players go and would only move them if another GM was willing to commit an obvious overpay. If they are traded, I would expect it to be as part of a deal to acquire an established major league star.
Group D: "Not unless he’s a prospect in a bigger deal."
Players: Domingo Santana, Luis Cruz
Odds of being traded: 10%
I could see either of these prospects being moved as part of a bigger deal. Santana could be a major piece in a trade for an established major leaguer as he is an elite prospect at this point. Cruz could be a decent secondary piece to add on. Trading them would also open up a spot on the 40 man roster. Still, I very much doubt either player is traded.
Group E: "Not sure why you want him, but ok, let’s talk."
Players: Josh Zeid, Marwin Gonzalez, LJ Hoes, Paul Clemens, Kevin Chapman, Marc Krauss, Rudy Owens, David Martinez, Josh Fields
Odds of being traded: 10%
This group of youngish players probably isn’t in Luhnow’s long term plan, which makes them expendable, but they also don’t have much (if any) trade value. Most teams have guys like these sitting on their rosters in AAA. I could see any of them being thrown in on top of a bigger deal to get it over the finish line and/or create room on the 40 man.
Group F: "He may not be in our long term plan, so I’ll listen, but I’m not in any hurry to trade him."
Players: Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Chris Carter
Odds of being traded: 10%
Fowler is a free agent after next season. Castro and Feldman are only under team control through 2016. Carter can be kept until 2018, but he reaches arbitration this offseason and may start to get expensive for a DH. All 4 players also have significant surplus value and could bring back a good prospect return.
Castro has a ton of value to a contender in need of a catcher for the next 2½ seasons. If Houston feels that Stassi (or another prospect) could step in right away and replace him, his value may never be higher than right now. He could get injured at any moment. That said, he is not having a great season so far, and he may be more valuable next year when the commitment would be shorter. Waiting until next year would also give Houston a chance to try to work out an extension. And it is unlikely any other catcher in the system is ready to step in and adequately replace Castro. If he was traded, Castro should bring back at least 2 Top 100 type prospects, plus another B- type.
Fowler is having a decent year and has 1 more year of team control so his value is likely peaking. Houston seemingly has his replacement lined up in Delino DeShields, and there are other outfielders waiting for a chance in AAA that could bridge any gap. And he will be expensive next year; that’s money that could be used to lure a premium free agent to the HTX. But Fowler has provided veteran leadership that may not be replaceable, and any player that steps in for him is likely to be a downgrade, at least for this season. I would expect any trade to return a Top 100 type prospect and another B- type.
Feldman may be a superfluous player after the Keuchel and McHugh breakouts. He could really help a contender, whether as a MoR SP or a BoR/reliever. His salary is not prohibitive but would clear room for the ‘stros to spend over this summer. Any pitcher can get injured at any moment. However, Feldman (like Fowler) adds a steadying veteran presence to a very young rotation. And trading him may send a negative message to impending free agents thinking of signing with Houston. Also, he probably would have more trade value 1 or 2 years from now when the financial commitment of taking him on would be lower. Feldman’s trade value is probably just slightly less than Fowler’s.
A team looking to add an inexpensive power hitter would have a hard time doing better than Carter. Getting a chance of 30 HR for $500k has a lot of value, and he is under team control for 4 more years. Santana, Tucker, or Duffy may be able to step in right away and take over for Carter, and even if they are not it’s never impossible to find one fairly cheap on the free agent market. But the reasons any team would want to trade for Carter are the same ones Houston may want to hang on to him. If Carter were flipped for prospects (instead of being part of a deal for a major leaguer), I’d expect him to net either 1 Top 100 prospect or 2 B- types.
Group H: "I’m listening."
Players: Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Alex Presley, Carlos Corporan, Jesus Guzman, Tony Sipp, Anthony Bass, Darin Downs, Kyle Farnsworth, Jerome Williams, Jesse Crain
Odds of being traded: 30%
Teams looking for bullpen help or upgrades to their bench will find plenty of options on Houston’s roster. And as this group of veterans are unlikely to be long-term Astros, and as prospects emerge and need roster spots, Luhnow is likely to have to move at least a few of them.
The price may vary, but any of those relievers (Qualls, Albers, Sipp, Bass, Downs, Farnsworth, Williams, and Crain) could help a contender. A B- prospect would be a fair return for Qualls, Albers or Sipp. The rest would net a C+ guy at best. Crain is hard to value given his injury.
Presley, Corporan, and Guzman would likely only interest teams that have suffered an injury or two. All three are capable bench players, and it’s not the end of the world if Presley has to play everyday for a stretch, but none of them are worth giving up premium prospects. I could see them being a throw-in piece for a star counterpart to send back a stop gap, or being sent out for a C+ prospect. Guzman has much less value than Presley and Corp and may just end up on waivers.
All in all I expect a much less active trade deadline than in years past, maybe not in terms of volume, but definitely in terms of impact. I’d put the over/under on total number of players traded from Houston’s 40 man roster at 5; 1 from Group C, 1 from Group E, and 3 from Group H. It will be interesting to follow the rumors to see if Houston is in the mix for acquiring a superstar, and if they go ahead and make the move to package some of their prospects to improve the big league team even more. For now, I think they mostly stand pat, and use the trade deadline more as a way of clearing roster space to make room for promotions than to really upgrade the farm.