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Jarred Cosart trade: Why moving a young starting pitcher makes sense

For once, the trade not about hurting the present to improve the future.

Rob Foldy

Houston has been rebuilding for the last three years.

Finally, when the light start to shine from the end of that metaphorical tunnel, the team looks like it might not lose 100 games in 2014. It has a good, young rotation and a solid core of players to build up on for that inevitable run at the 2017 World Series title.

Yet, on Trade Deadline Day 2014, the Astros pulled off a last minute, hail mary trade with the Miami Marlins, sending the 2013 team Rookie of the Year out of town, along with fan favorites Kike Hernandez and Austin Wates. How does this help them get better now?

For many fans, this was another nail in general manager Jeff Luhnow's coffin. He's once again setting the major league team back two steps while trying to move three steps ahead in 2017.

Yet, he didn't.

This trade nets Houston one of the few things that changed hands at the deadline: an MLB-ready young bat. Jake Marisnick was probably promoted too soon last year by the flailing Marlins and struggled as a result. He's still scuffling at Triple-A, but the point is, he's young and has just as much MLB service time left as Cosart.

Plus, he gives Houston something it could sorely use right now, adding another potent bat to an offense that has few of them. Marisnick's minor league numbers show a guy who could provide Hunter Pence-type production: 20 homers, 20 steals and  a .280 batting average at his peak.

What was Jarred Cosart offering Houston? He's an extreme sinker guy who's got phenomenal stuff, but lacks great control. He's always walking a balancing act with his walks and has given up runs at inopportune times when staked to big leads.

He's still young and has proven he can pitch in the majors. Heck, he's proven that he can improve in the majors. That doesn't mean he's going to be a great pitcher any time soon. Even in this improving season, Cosart was projected to finish with under 2.0 WAR, per FanGraphs and ZiPS. That's great, but it's the same kind of production that Scott Feldman brings. How many people clamored for Feldman to be traded? How many loved that signing?

Could Cosart improve? Absolutely. But, with his command issues, he'd have to get better there before he could improve on his run prevention. The history of pitchers suddenly gaining that kind of control is awful small.

Also, Houston didn't have to trade him. They looked at this market, where David Price, Jon Lester and Jeff Samarzidja brought in huge trade returns, and made the smart move. They capitalized on that market by getting a player that can help now and in the future for a young arm. They expanded the deal, brought in a Top 100 prospect in Colin Moran (who they loved in the 2013 draft), a young lottery ticket of an arm AND got the Marlins' competitive balance lottery pick, likely No. 35 overall.

They improved now and in the future.

If you're worried about the rotation, you have a right to be. Even though they have good depth, it's easy to see that depth frittered away due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Look at what happened to the Cardinals this year or what the Astros thought they had last year. Pitchers get injured. Teams need as many as they can grab.

But, right now, Houston has a glut of MLB-ready arms. They will reportedly give Jake Buchanan the start in Cosart's stead Thursday evening against the Blue Jays. But, they have other arms poised to be big-league ready. Mike Foltynewicz needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter. Could he get the call? Asher Wojciechowski is finally healthy. Could he help out? Nick Tropeano is also back from injury. Will he fill into the back of the bullpen?

Don't forget about Brad Peacock, who has shown flashes of being a dependable rotation piece. At this time, young pitching is something Houston has in plenty.

Losing Austin Wates and Kike Hernandez will sting for fans. Kike plays with such energy, he provided a spark both for the crowds and for the team. Yet, Houston sort of sold high on both players. Neither looked like everyday players long-term, so the Astros packaged them for three assets who could play every day soon.

The biggest reason, though, that Houston made this move was the new offensive environment. Runs are at a premium, which makes it slightly easier to find pitchers. With run scoring down across the league and strikeouts up, bolstering the lineup becomes a priority.

Improvement comes at a cost. In this case, it cost a very good, young pitcher who throws hard. But, if the Astros lineup improves this year and the next because of it, while not missing a beat thanks to that pitching depth? Fans will enjoy this trade quite a bit.