The Houston Astros have had themselves a busy offseason. Houston was wheeling and dealing seemingly from the last out of the World Series up until pitchers and catchers reported in February. To add some of the pieces they did, the Astros had to part with members of the 2014 team that finished 70-92. Some will be missed more than others, but to make strides towards a winning season, sacrifices had to be made.
CF Dexter Fowler: How Astros fans feel about Fowler's departure likely correlates with the satisfaction of the return from the Chicago Cubs in the Jan. 19 trade. Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily aside, the Astros are losing a player in Fowler who boasts a career on-base percentage of .366. Fowler consistently works outstanding at-bats, walks a ton and provides a solid combination of speed and pop. However, Fowler posted career lows in slugging percentage (.399) and stolen bases (11) with Houston last season.
On the flip side, Houston will be much better defensively in center field with any of three replacements in Jake Marisnick, Colby Rasmus or George Springer. Defensive metrics absolutely despise Fowler. He posted a miserable ultimate zone rating of -21.8 a season ago. By Fangraphs' defensive wins above replacement calculations, Fowler was by far the worst center fielder in baseball last season.
The wiry built Fowler has been prone to injury as well throughout the last couple of years. Although he hasn't sustained anything major, he missed 43 games with Colorado in 2013 followed by 46 last year with Houston. For a player that had just one year left of player control - compared to seven combined between Valbuena and Straily - there was plenty of reason to move Fowler.
However, make no mistake; Houston's lineup will miss his ability to work counts. Fowler, like most patient hitters, struck out at a decent clip, but his on-base ability will be sorely missed in a lineup that may not manufacture runs well.
RHP Mike Foltynewicz: Speaking of varying opinions, thoughts of Folty's potential were all over the place. Could he have been Houston's No. 5 starter this season? Would he begin the season in Houston's bullpen and be groomed for closing duties? Should he start the year in the AAA rotation? The Astros never had to answer those questions because they shipped the flame-throwing 23-year old to Atlanta in a trade for slugger Evan Gattis.
Pitchers who can touch 100 mph don't grow on trees. Pitchers with better command than Foltynewicz, however, are much more common. Folty undoubtedly has the ceiling to become a solid MLB starter with his fastball, a big breaking ball and an improving changeup. Having control of all three pitches at once is rare, though. Foltynewicz's profile screams bullpen - his heater would've complemented the Astros improved pen well - but he wants to be a starter. There's nothing wrong with that, except he posted a 4.79 FIP in 18 starts at AAA last season. He has the potential to make Houston look silly, but trading Folty for a bona fide power hitter like Gattis is a well-calculated risk.
RHP Matt Albers, RHP Jesse Crain, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Josh Zeid, RHP Nick Tropeano, 1B Mark Krauss, 1B/OF Jesus Guzman.
This group probably inspires more of a "good riddance" reaction for most Astros fans. Albers barely pitched for Houston after tearing a muscle in his shoulder, and Crain never appeared in an Astros uniform due to a biceps injury. Both are now in Chicago with the White Sox.
Bass and Guzman were low-priced gambles that paid next to nothing. Veras was fantastic for Houston in 2013 before being traded at the deadline, and then returned last year after a failed stint with the Cubs to pitch well again. His 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings was valuable for a tumultuous season in Houston's bullpen, but the Astros decided to pass on the 34-year old. He signed with the Braves on Feb. 10.
Krauss has bounced back and forth between Houston and Oklahoma City the last two seasons, but was never able to hit consistently enough to stick. Krauss's career line of .200/.274/.341 in 354 plate appearances plus a lack of defensive value sealed his fate with Houston. He was picked up by the L.A. Angels on waivers in early December.
Zeid, who was acquired by the Astros in the Hunter Pence deal, becomes the second member of that trade -- along with Jarred Cosart -- to leave Houston. The right-hander had foot surgery at the end of July and never returned. Zeid had an ERA of 5.21 in 48.1 career innings with Houston before being picked up on waivers by the Detroit Tigers this offseason.
Perhaps Tropeano's four starts with Houston (4.57 ERA) late last season were a bit of a showcase as the Astros quickly flipped him and minor league catcher Carlos Perez on Nov. 5 for L.A. Angels catcher Hank Conger. Tropeano was outstanding at AAA Oklahoma City last year, posting a 3.03 ERA in 124.2 innings. His changeup is Major League-ready, but questions remain with the 24-year old's fastball and curve.
Considering what the Astros gained this offseason, the amount lost doesn't look bad at all. Gone are the days of players like Krauss and Guzman filling in the Astros lineup when others need a rest. Houston is deep at almost every position, and has the versatility to handle the rigors of a 162-game season. That's pretty exciting.