After a day of frenzied movement, the TCB staff finally gets a chance to breathe and reflect on the new Astro. At least, they did, before another move happened on Monday. On top of the addition of Evan Gattis, the Astros added two more players while shipping center fielder Dexter Fowler to Chicago.
Opinions on the trade were split. No one just out and out loved the move, because Fowler was a valuable player. But, there could be some surprising value in Houston's return. Here's what TCB's staff had to say:
Meh. I mean, with the Gattis acquisition, it became a lot less clear where Fowler was going to play. The Astros had a lot of outfielders, and something had to budge. Trading one of them basically HAD to happen. There are only two that anyone would want, and Gerorge isn't going anywhere.
Are Valbuena and Straily world-beaters? No. But Fowler had one year of control left, and turning him into two players who provide immediate upgrades for players on the current roster makes sense.
This move probably makes both teams better in the short run, even if it doesn't overwhelm.
This is an interesting trade and one I am really happy about. Fowler was one of the best hitters on the team last year, and losing his on base skills is going to be tough to replace. We gave up Fowler, who most likely wasn't going to sign an extension next year anyways, for a decent stopgap 3B/IF coming off a career year who has two years of team control in Valbuena and a potential SP5 with an awesome K rate in Straily.
I hate losing Fowler, but I think this trade makes the team better. We may have improved not only 3B while giving Moran more time to season in the minors, but we also have another pitcher who's ready to contribute at the major league level. Maybe Strom can work his magic and Straily be the next McHugh.
This is another case of addition by subtraction. Having a reliable bat that doesn't strike out 200 times a year at 3rd base is another step forward. Straily is a good, but not great pitcher. I've seen him many times while he was with Oakland, and he gets a surprising number of K's for the velo he has, so his stuff must be deceptive. I'm gonna say 11-8 with a sub 4 ERA. Again, Luhnow is trading from depth, for something we needed. The Cubs get 1 year of Dexter, who I love as a human, but is often on the DL. Do they think they are going to win the NL Central this year? It appears so.
The Astros are again, immediately improved at 2 spots by this trade, and it allows Marisnick to play CF, and Gattis plays LF. All good as far as I'm concerned.
That sound you just heard was Bob Grossman breaking the sound barrier by giving the most grandiose of falcon punch fist pumps.
I knew Fowler wasn't long for this Astroworld as soon as the Gattis trade went gold. I already miss that beautiful OBP, but I was going to develop stomach ulcers over Gattis and Fowler in the same outfield, so this trade improves my personal health, which is nice. I always feel weird about trading for somebody who was available for free off waivers a few years ago, but if Luis Valbuena saves us from 550 PA of Matt Dominguez, I can certainly push that weirdness aside. I don't know much about Dan Straily, but I've been told you can never have too much pitching, and Dan Straily is a pitcher. So by the transitive property, you can never have too much Dan Straily. Or something.
I really like Dan Straily. He's got a vanilla fastball that averaged 89 mph last season (ugh), but he pairs it with a strong slider and a solid change-up. He seems to get a lot out of his stuff, or projects to. According to minorleaguecentral.com, Straily averaged a 3.04 SIERA from 2011 to 2014 in the minor leagues with a 26% strikeout rate. He reminds me of Collin McHugh in the sense that neither has ever been a "top prospect", but in that their performances always outplayed the scouting reports. Given what we know about the current staff's ability to get the most out of such types of pitchers, Straily looks like an immediate and significant upgrade over Brad Peacock at the back of the rotation, with upside to be a good #3 or #4 in a decent rotation. It's unlikely he reaches the lofty heights climbed by McHugh and Dallas Keuchel in 2014, but it's not an egregious stretch of the imagination to think that Straily can put up consistent ERA's under 4.00 for the entirety of his team-controlled contract, which has four years left on it at least.
Valbuena is a guy I don't like at all, but that I'm totally wrong about. As the starting 3B on CRPerry13's 2010 Fantasy All-Stars, he really let me down with a soul-crushing .193/
Losing Fowler hurts, but projection systems think that Marisnick can provide similar value to Fowler in ins above replacement - Marisnick with his glove compared to Fowler with his bat. So overall, the roster impact is minimized and if Marisnick takes a step forward at the plate (possible, given his pedigree, and maybe even likely), then it's a clear upgrade at the CF position as well.
A good, win-now and win-later trade for the Astros. Also a clear win for the Cubs, who didn't need either of the players sent to the Astros. Best kind of trade.
Upon first hearing that Fowler was being traded, I wasn't too happy. Houston doesn't have much in the way of on-base skills in the lineup and depending on how Chris Carter and Evan Gattis are viewed, Fowler was the second-best bat on the team. However, the Astros purchased some big time insurance for its most glaring hole - third base. Who knows what's next for Matt Dominguez as he now has plenty of competition in the form of Luis Valbuenca plus Colin Moran knocking on the door. As for Dan Straily, hopefully his rough 2014 was just a blip. Under pitching coach Brent Strom he could certainly harness his impressive arsenal and become a good back of the rotation option.
This trade appears to be more and more based on team control. Valbuena is under control until 2017 and Straily until 2020. Meanwhile, Fowler was locked up for just this season only. As reported by Evan Drellich, Fowler said he and the Astros never discussed an extension. That could have been just Houston's side or perhaps both, but the Astros likely knew Fowler would not be an Astro in 2016 no matter what. As a result, they get two players that have proved MLB ability with the chance of becoming even better. Houston may not win the trade this season as Fowler could easily have a better year than Valbuena and Straily, but from 2016 and on the real value of this deal will show up for the Astros.
This trade is incredible, though I know many will disagree. I see Valbuena and Fowler as being similar in terms of value, and we get two years of Valbeuna for one of Fowler. If it had been a straight-up move, I'd have been happy, if
And then they got Straily, too. This guy screams "Collin McHugh 2.0" to me. The fastball is average, but Stroms' magic could help it play up, if not out-right increase it's velocity. Breaking balls, especially his underused curve, are legit weapons. His profile is very similar to our stunning breakout rookie. Even without that, this is a guy who posted an ERA under 4.00 in the AL West back in 2013; for those of you who don't like Brad Peacock, here is your upgrade at the back-end of the rotation, and there could be a lot more than a #5 starter once Strom does his thing. And did I mention that Straily has five years of club control left? Oh Luhnow, you dog you.
Valbuena will make a nice transition piece to Moran, and I think, 12 months from now, we could well be going "we got this guy Straily for five years in exchange for one year of Fowler! Steal!"
My initial reaction to this trade is not that favorable. Dexter Fowler had the 15th highest on-base percentage of any player in baseball last year, and was one of the team's top offensive players. His OBP skill is at an elite level and it's not easy to find those types of guys in this offensive environment.
The Astros' team OBP was .309 last year, good for 21st overall in baseball. In terms of offensive skill set they did not trade away Fowler from a place of strength. Granted, this trade was probably more about the fact that Fowler wasn't going to be with the Astros beyond 2015 anyway. If the team knew that Fowler wasn't going to re-sign, then it was a good idea to trade him now rather than wait until they had less leverage, that I can get behind. I just wonder if the return for an excellent offensive player could have been higher than what seems like spare parts.
Yes, Valbuena is an upgrade at third (if still a placeholder) and Straily could turn into something nice, but that remains to be seen. Maybe the front office is very high on Straily, and that's why they did the deal, or maybe there just wasn't a better offer on the table. I won't be shocked if Straily puts up good numbers with this team, because the FO does seem to do well developing pitchers, but losing Fowler's OBP hurts.
Unfortunately, I do not share the same excitement as most of my Crawfish brethren. I completely understand the why behind this trade. The Astros were likely going to get only 1 more year from Dexter Fowler, and chances are we were not going to be able to match the kind of offer he will probably get in free agency. Add in the fact that after acquiring Evan Gattis to play primarily LF, we suddenly have a crowded outfield. Marisnick can replace Fowler in center, and Springer will hopefully be our right fielder for many years to come. Therefore, this was a good time to trade 1 year of Dexter Fowler. However, my initial reaction to the return we received of Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily is simply underwhelming.
I feel the quality and caliber of Dexter Fowler as a legit, on-base machine center fielder, should have yielded bigger impact pieces. When the trade first broke, the return the Astros were getting were described as "major league players." I know that was to suggest that the fans should not expect one of the big time prospects in the Cubs' system, but unfortunately I feel that "major league players" is a fitting description of both Valbuena and Straily. Valbuena had a career year, so I am not sure he can keep that up, or if his production will regress badly. Straily has been on the prospect radar for a few years now, but has yet to experience sustained success at the big league level. I am not saying that either of these players are bad per se, but I just feel that the return should have either been more substantial, or been less risky. I have no problems making risky moves, where typically high risk equals high reward. In this case, it seems to me that we are taking high risk, but we might, possibly, get an average reward, IF everything breaks like we are hoping/projecting them to break. The cost/benefit analysis just isn't sitting well with me. But I've been wrong many a time, so let's just hope this is another one of those instances.
I have read the mostly positive feedback, and I do find it comforting. But I just keep getting back to the question, "Was this really the MOST value we could have received for Dexter Fowler?" I know that the Astros' front office is thorough, and they don't leave any stones unturned, so I will most certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. I guess I should stop playing the hypothetical "what-if" game, and enjoy the fact that we should get better production from 3B as a result of this trade, as well as adding an intriguing arm to the back of the rotation battle. Just as I am wrapping my reaction piece in a nice, little bow, this thought just dawned on me: perhaps we made this trade and obtained Valbuena and Straily as pieces to flip in another corresponding trade. Maybe something bigger...
Our opening day lineup could be for the first time in years entirely lacking in alarm bells. There will likely still be question marks but no longer will we look at guys penciled into a spot in the lineup and hear alarm bells going off.