When the Astros made their 2014 trade deadline deal with Miami in which the team received defensive wizard Jake Marisnick, former top-10 pick Colin Moran, lottery ticket Francis Martes and the 37th pick in the following summer's draft in exchange for a package centered around Jarred Cosart, a player the Houston fanbase had largely soured on after mediocre performance and repeated run-ins with media and team leadership, there was understandably a lot of excitement.
The deal represented another instance of Jeff Luhnow turning spare parts into future key cogs in the Astros machine- such as when he flipped Lance Berkman to the Yankees for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes, or when he received L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader and the pick that would become Derek Fisher from Baltimore in exchange for aging middle-of-the-rotation arm and loudmouth Bud Norris.
The Cosart trade, to this point, has been a near-complete success- while Jarred has continued to struggle with too few strikeouts and far too many walks, Colin Moran has started to show improvement with his bat, Francis Martes has blossomed into a top-100 prospect in all of baseball and the competitive balance selection that Miami sent to Houston turned into blue-chipper Daz Cameron -- now one of the crown jewels of the Astros' minor league system. Trades like this one allowed Jeff Luhnow to stockpile the Morey-esque stack of assets that he needed to flip the switch into win-now mode during the 2016 offseason, making the blockbuster deal for phenom closer Ken Giles.
Through the Astros' rebuild, fans have excitedly analyzed each new prospect that Luhnow's team brought into the fold, looking for any way the club's new toys might contribute to a future championship contender. Fans are often unable, however to look at players being traded away through the same lens- there is often an air of good riddance when a struggling prospect is shipped off (Jarred Cosart, Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz), but one of excitement when a similar player is brought into the mix (Brett Wallace, Matt Dominguez, Jon Singleton, even the pre-Astro version of Cosart himself).
And to Luhnow's credit, he's made remarkably a small number of missteps while moving dozens of players around the league in a relatively short window. The constant turnover in the Astros' organization has given the team an upward trend and has them positioned to compete for World Series championships. As the team reaches higher levels of play, factors that had been outside their consideration as a 100-loss team become increasingly important, things like chemistry, continuity, roster balance at all levels of the organization. To borrow from psychology, the Astros' club is now addressing goals higher on its hierarchy of needs, and a change in approach from a personnel standpoint should likely follow.
A team concerned with team cohesion and clubhouse morale just as much as talent, likely would have traded Jarred Cosart, a player known to march to the tune of his own drum, all the same.
However, it is worth questioning whether or not they would have been willing to part with another piece they gave up in that deal- young utility player Enrique Hernandez, now of the Dodgers.
Hernandez, who at the time was a hot rookie and one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball. To the Astros he did not represent a future starter, and though his hustle and defensive versatility had provided a spark to the team since his callup, the management likely saw this as a sell-high opportunity, not believing Hernandez to have enough upside to warrant blowing up a deal over.
Time has validated this point of view. Hernandez is not a current or future everyday player in the majors, but the skills he showed in the Astros organization, including with the Major League club in 2014, have continued to allow him to contribute to big league tilts.
Though it took him until later in the 2015 season to resurface in The Show, he pieced together a sterling 132 wRC+, most of his damage done against lefties, for the Dodgers last season in limited action, playing at six different defensive positions and providing much needed relief to a club that dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness at several spots on the diamond last season.
Hernandez is a platoon player, a super-utility man at best, and the Astros attaching him to Cosart in that 2014 trade is far from the baseball equivalent of drafting Sam Bowie, but now that Luhnow is at the helm of a winner, he will likely exercise more caution when moving pieces like Hernandez going forward.
On a championship team, every player, even utility men and middle relievers, must be ready to handle high-leverage situations. Kiké, despite his 5'11", 170 lb. frame and lack of a steady position, is a player who does not shy away from the spotlight. As we've seen in many a playoff run, players like Kiké can become difference makers when the lights shine brightest.