On July 30, 2015 the Astros traded with the Brewers to acquire center fielder Carlos Gomez and starting pitcher Mike Fiers. In return, they handed the Brewers a stable of highly-regarded prospects.
Prospectphiles and long-time devotees of the Astros' resurrected farm system reacted with much wailing and gnashing of the teeth, particularly over the loss of beloved center field prospect Brett "Maverick" Phillips. Note to the front office: trading a player with a fun nickname will always annoy the fan base, unless that nickname happens to be "Trogdor".
Proponents of the trade argued that Gomez had already been selected to multiple All-Star games and that Fiers is an under-appreciated middle rotation type who occasionally pitches like an ace. Additionally, the Astros would control Gomez through 2016 and Fiers potentially through 2018.
That's all ancient history.
But last week, the Earth shook with a happenstance that forces Astros fans of all shapes and sizes to re-evaluate the Gomez/Fiers trade with new eyes and judge the front office's decision to part with those nice prospects.
The Red Sox acquired closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres in return for four prospects.
Treating Kimbrel alone, the Red Sox picked up arguably the best relief pitcher currently drawing breath. Last season's 2.58 ERA was the highest of his entire career, and it's not close. His career ERA stands at a wee 1.63, and he strikes out three batters every two innings on average. He's really, really, really, kinda pretty good. He's also only 27 years old, and so figures to maintain his dominance for a while. Even the $24 million left on his contract, not including a $13 million option for 2018 that will almost certainly be exercised, the Red Sox can't be too brokenhearted about acquiring him.
In return, they gave up the following prospects: (rankings are from MLB.com's 2015 Prospect Watch)
- OF Manuel Margot (Rank #25, #1 San Diego Prospect)
- SS Javier Guerra (Rank #76, #4 SD prospect)
- LHP Logan Allen (#18 SD Prospect)
- INF Carlos Asuaje (#20 SD Prospect)
- CF Brett Phillips (Rank #32, #2 Milwaukee prospect)
- RF Domingo Santana (Rank #50 prior to 2015, now in the majors)
- LHP Josh Hader (#14 MIL prospect)
- RHP Adrian Houser (#27 MIL prospect)
The Padres received a slightly greater return than the Brewers did, although there is something to be said for Domingo Santana's proximity to the major leagues at the time of the trade. The Padres received a better primary piece to the deal in Margot over Phillips. Santana has a slight edge over Guerrera, until one considers that Guerrera is a shortstop, a position much more difficult to fill in the majors than right field. And Allen and Asuaje are both better-regarded prospects than Hader and Houser currently are.
And what did the Red Sox get back? The best reliever in the game, 27 years old, but with $37 million of remaining contract.
The Astros received a 2-time All Star CF with 1-1/2 years left on his deal (a $9 million 2016 salary, approximately) and a starting pitcher making almost league minimum who is just entering arbitration, has struck out more than a batter per inning and limits walks to fewer than one every three innings. He also threw a no-hitter, in case anybody forgot.
The Astros received five total years of team control for two players. One guy will play every day in 2016. The other will throw 180 or more innings. The Red Sox got "just" a great pitcher who might throw 70 innings next season.
And they paid more.