There's a common theme to almost every trade that's happened since at least last summer.
It doesn't have to do with teams valuing prospects more than they have in the past. (They do, but that's not the point.)
It has everything to do with free agency and years of control. That was key in the David Price deal. It was a key component for the big returns for a player like Matt Kemp and Jeff Samarzidja and the reason why the A's traded Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes.
Team control matters.
The Astros had a growing situation in the outfield, but it's one they saw coming since last winter. As soon as Dexter Fowler was traded to Houston for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes, the inevitable move this winter (or last summer) could have been predicted.
Fowler came to Houston with an injury-prone reputation. Despite Brooks debunking that theory last winter, Fowler proved to have plenty of bumps and bruises which knocked him down for significant time. He only played 116 games, marking the second straight year Fowler failed to appear in 120 games.
Maybe that changes next season and he plays 143 like he did for the Rockies in 2012. He's only topped that mark once since 2006, though. Odds are against him suddenly becoming a lineup fixture at 28.
Then, there's the matter of Fowler's agent, one Casey Close. That's the same Casey Close who had some strong words for this Astros front office after they backed out of a deal with his "advisee" Brady Aiken over a medical issue.
Fowler said Monday that the Astros never approached him about a long-term contract. That could be an issue with his agent, but it also could be the Astros recognizing the issue with his pending free agent status.
They knew when they acquired him, Fowler was a short-term solution.
For that matter, Luis Valbuena is, too. If he was the only return for Fowler, it'd be an alright one for Houston. They turned one year of a good offensive player for two years of a decent overall ball player. Maybe next winter, they turn around and trade Valbuena for more value if/when Colin Moran is ready to contribute.
But, they also got a young, controllable pitcher who may be able to do some special things in Brent Strom's Effective Velocity system.
What if Straily becomes 2015's Colin McHugh?
Even if he's not, the Astros have five years of control to kick around and make him reach some of those flattering SIERA numbers Straily posted in the minors.
You know who did something very similar this winter? Straily's former former team, the Oakland A's. They turned a trunkload of assets into something more, stacking up controllable seasons while not really losing much on offense.
Dexter Fowler was projected for 1.7 fWAR in 2015. Luis Valbuena is projected by Steamer for 1.7 fWAR in 2015.
He also plays a position of need for the Astros, pushing Matt Dominguez and bringing competition to Houston's biggest weakness on the infield last year.
In other words, they didn't get worse at the major league level, fixed an area of need and gained a year of player control, while also adding an interesting arm.
All in all, that's a nice trade, and shows more about the current state of team-building than it reflects on the relative talents of any of the three players involved.