The Houston Astros made two majors moves on Thursday, trading for catcher Brian McCann and reportedly signed outfielder Josh Reddick. TCB Staff reacts to Jeff Luhnow’s moves to inject veteran leadership into the roster.
What are your thoughts on the two moves the Astros made on Thursday?
I'm just a shade on the positive side of neutral with Reddick, and violently, passionately angry about McCann. Probably all I want to say about it here. Consider me the one voice on the masthead virulently opposed to the McCann trade. I'll let everybody else build the trade up now, so we can end on a positive note.
The McCann move feels like a steal on our end, but the reality is that it's one of those times that you see a great move for both sides. Gary Sanchez was going to get the lion's share of the playing time behind the dish for New York, and McCann's bat really isn't full-time DH worthy, and you don't want to be paying $17 million a year for a backup catcher. So McCann really had to go, and they got a couple of talented lottery-ticket flamethrowers and some salary relief in the process. For Houston, they gave up maybe their fifth-best starting pitching prospect and another kid for a clear upgrade over the departing Jason Castro, and they'll be paying said upgrade less than $12 million a year. The two years left on McCann's contract should give them enough time to figure out who Garrett Stubbs and Jake Rogers really are.
The Reddick deal isn't as much of a slam-dunk, but it's a great fit for a number of reasons. Reddick won't cost a draft pick, is left-handed, is a legit defensive right-fielder, and will fit in well with the clubhouse (he's very much like Springer and Marisnick personality-wise, in fact). Considering he doesn't cost a pick, you'd expect more than $13 million AAV for him. At that price, even if he doesn't live up to expectations, Houston won't be hamstrung over it. That's less than Rasmus made this past season. If he's healthy and Yuli Gurriel hits, you could see the best outfield in baseball at Minute Maid Park next season.
Throw in Charlie Morton, and the Astros have acquired three legit upgrades (Morton over Fister, McCann over Castro, Reddick over Marisnick) in the past 36 hours, and they did so by giving up one good-but-not-great prospect, and will be paying the three combined less than $35 million per season. In Luhnow We Trust.
I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm ready for next season!
I won't lie, the less Marisnick I see in the starting lineup the better. He's a great fielder but awful with the bat. You could say the same about Jason Castro if we're honest. Yes, defense is clearly important to the Astros, but not enough to forgive awful plate discipline. Both McCann and Reddick can hold their own on the field and at the plate. And with the cost associated with both moves, I can't help but stay positive.
First, the McCann deal looks reasonable to me. I'm not the biggest McCann fan in the world, but it's hard not to like the trading terms. I was afraid that the Astros might have to give up more in prospect return, particularly if NY picks up part of the salary. I think this is a net positive improvement for the Astros without giving up too much. That said, I have this sneaking suspicion that we may be underrating Abreu and Guzman in this deal. The Yankees have a good scouting organization and I suspect that the Yankees identified these two prospects as the guys they wanted. Don't be surprised if they turn into good players.
Second, I'm not as excited about the Reddick signing. I'm skeptical of a performance drop-off, and the 4th year of this deal may be pushing it. I'm not upset with the signing--just wary. He is an above average hitter, not a great one. And he could quickly decline to just average or less. Also, the Astros will have to limit his exposure to LHPs. Hinch has a lot of experience doing that with Rasmus and others, but it's not like the Astros signed a completely full time OFer. On the other hand, as Brian points out, this is not a crippling contract and Reddick's athleticism and energy should fit in well with the club. So, I'm hoping for the best,
I feel like I have to start every analysis of a move made by the Astros with a disclaimer: the people in the Astros front office are so much smarter than us. They have so many more resources, and have probably developed resources that we couldn't wrap our heads around. This doesn't mean every move the front office makes is good (hi, J.D. Martinez; ugh, Carlos Gomez). However, reserving judgment I think is important.
The Brian McCann move seems like a good one to me, especially once the Yankees kicked in $5.5 million. He's hit 20 or more home runs every season since 2008. His career walk percentage is 9.3 which should allow him to age decently. And of course, he matches up as a platoon for Evan Gattis - a very, very good hitting platoon at the catcher position. However, the second half of his 2016 season was not good (.299 wOBA, 84 wRC+). He does grade out well as a framer, but threw out just 23 percent of potential base stealers last year. For a guy that turns 33 in February, there certainly are red flags that indicate this could not end well for the Astros. But for the prospects given up (a couple of hard-throwing lottery tickets, more or less), right now, this looks like a good deal.
Speaking of poor second halves, signing Josh Reddick lands in the buy low category after he disappointed the Dodgers in 2016, but maybe they should've expected it.
2016 Reddick: First-half wRC+: 116; Second-half wRC+: 95
Career Reddick: First-half wRC+: 115; Second-half wRC+: 95
This isn't to say Reddick will be an above-average performer in the first half and below average performer in the second half for the rest of the career, but there's definitely something there. There's more though. Reddick can't play against left-handed pitching, like at all. The left-handed hitting Reddick has been bad against lefties throughout his career (76 wRC+), but in 2016 it took a turn for the worst. In 104 plate appearances against lefties, Reddick had a wRC+ of 3. Three! He didn't have an extra-base hit against lefties, just 15 singles. Four years, $52 million seems like a lot for a platoon player. Reddick, however, does provide defense and good base-running. There is definitely underlying value in him, and it definitely provides lineup versatility for A.J. Hinch, but I sure hope Reddick is able to age well as he hits his 30s in February.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Astros, you're so cute. You sneak in before the Winter Meetings and snatch up one of the best hitters who wasn't given a qualifying offer, one of the best starters who wasn't given a qualifying offer, and traded an outside-the-top-ten prospect and a reliever who isn't old enough to vote for a catcher who is better than any catcher on the Free Agent market.
I feel bad not joining in on the celebration, but honestly, I'm not inspired by either move. I feel neither move will move the needle much. I understand the logic and numbers behind the decisions, but my gut tells me that the moves will not pan out as planned. I certainly hope to be proven wrong though.
Brian McCann trade: I have no problem with the acquisition cost (although Albert Abreu does pique my interest), so that' s not the reason for my concern. I hesitate about this deal simply because I believe that McCann's days as an offensive force as a catcher are done. I think they were done a few years ago actually. I thought the Yankees grossly overpaid for him at the time, so I can't just do a 180 because he is now an Astro. The $11M cash being included in the deal is nice, but again, that presupposes that I believe in McCann the player still. And I just don't. My gut, which admittedly has no statistical data to back it up, is that we will see a sharp decline in McCann's production, to the point where it will hurt the Astros. This is strange too, because I didn't like Jason Castro at all, so I should, theoretically, be happy that we replaced him. I will admit that I believe McCann will be a slight improvement over Castro, but that's such a low bar, I don't see that as a huge victory. So let's conclude the McCann deal as "skeptical" as far as I am concerned.
Josh Reddick: Again, I'm not seeing the appeal here. He hasn't put up a single season with an OPS of .800+. From an corner outfield spot, I'd like to think that that is a reasonable ask from me. I can see the justification that if we apply a strict platoon, his offensive production against righties would be just fine as a corner outfielder. To be fair to him, I do like that he is a good defender, so I'll give him that. The contract shouldn't be a huge obstacle for our payroll as a whole, as the AAV of $13M is fine from my perspective. I also didn't want us to trade for him at the deadline last year, so you won't see me jumping up and down after signing him to a 4 year deal. Other similar deals for outfielders are: Nick Markakis at 4/$44M, Nick Swisher at 4/$56M, and former Astros Michael Bourn at 4/$48M. In hindsight, I don't think any of those players lived up to their respective contracts, and I am just not as optimistic as the others that Reddick will be any different.
Again, I will say that I understand the justification and rationale that our other writers have said, and can squint enough to see their excitement. It also pains me to argue against the "I'm so excited" gif, but right now, I'm just not feeling it. I kind of feel bad taking the Debbie Downer role, and again, I am really hoping that I am wrong here, but these are my initial thoughts to each deal yesterday.
These are both good moves, but not huge game-changers. They do come with some excitement. I mean, we didn't acquire prospects or players with only 1-2 seasons under their belt. These are everyday MLB players that we are talking about. That being said, they aren't players who will carry us on their backs into the postseason, but they also aren't players who crippled us financially and prospect-wise to acquire.
So they are a couple of savvy acquisitions that might pan out really well, or they might only improve the team slightly. But they didn't cost a crippling amount to acquire. So like I said, good moves, but fairly low-risk with moderate-level reward in my opinion.