With the trade deadline fast approaching and the Astros expected to make a move of some size, I want you to make a simple prediction. Name one player you think the Astros will acquire at the trade deadline this year. I really want you to go out on a limb and single out one player.
To clarify, this player should not be who you WANT the Astros to acquire, but who you think Luhnow will go out and get.
So... who is it?
Brian Stevenson- Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray. I want him, but it's more than that. I think Luhnow wants him. I think Luhnow wanted Jose Abreu. And Masahiro Tanaka. And David Robertson. And Cole Hamels. And Jose Quintana. We know they were very serious about all those guys. They had major proposals, whether contract or trade, and were just beaten out.
And they did go out and get Scott Kazmir, and Mike Fiers, and Carlos Gomez. They went out and got Evan Gattis. They've done so many deals with Oakland already that we're only partially kidding when we say Beane is basically Luhnow's BFF. Remember us giving four years and a ton of money to an oft-injured outfielder who was to be 30 years old already on opening day? Remember when we gave up multiple top prospects for a reliever? Tell me again how this front office won't deal for a big player, won't give up their top prospects, will always do the "smart, sabermetric thing."
Quintana just tossed seven shutout frames with 12 punch outs in his Cubs debut, and in an AL ballpark without the aid of the pitcher batting. You think Luhnow didn't see that?
No. This is the best team Houston has ever seen, arguably in any sport, in it's history. This is our best chance, and you never know when it will end up being your last chance. This city has waited more than half a century for this. And I think Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow won't be beat out this time.
Sonny Gray is coming to Houston within the next 14 days. Is that out on a limb enough for ya?
HOF4BGO- Marcus Stroman
I say the Astros get Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline. He won't be cheap, but is under team control for 3 additional seasons after this one (through 2020).
In Stroman, the Astros get a young (26) starter whose stats have always been TOR quality. 2016 was the only year he posted an ERA north of 4, but his 2016 FIP and xFIP were 3.71 and 3.41 respectively. Despite his youth, Stroman has already made 5 starts in the playoffs as well as some starts in the WBC for Team USA (including the championship game). He is young, has great stuff, and already has experience dealing with the pressure of playoff baseball.
One current hang-up with this prediction is that the Blue Jays have been reluctant to consider themselves sellers so far. However, at the time of this writing they are 9 games back in the AL East and 5.5 games back in the wild card race (with 6 other teams between them and the 2nd WC spot). Their schedule for the next week includes 4 games in Boston and 3 games in Cleveland. I think the Blue Jays FO will be ready to start thinking about next year by the end of this week, and won't be able to resist the Astros' package of top prospects for Stroman.
Stroman will cost a lot, but I think the Astros' FO realizes that they need to make the most of this year. Having a core of good, young talent doesn't guarantee that you'll make the playoffs every year. Just look at the 2016 Astros and the 2017 Cubs. The Cubs might still make the playoffs of course, but you get the point. Nothing is guaranteed in this sport and I think Luhnow realizes that.
CRPerry13- J.A. Happ
The Astros will trade for starting pitcher J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Why the Jays would do it:
They are in last place in their division, 9 games out of first place and 5.5 games out of the Wild Card. It's time to throw in the towel. Happ will turn 35 this off-season and is owed $13M next season. There is no way that he can contribute the next time Toronto's competitive window is open.
Trade return is usually higher in July than it is during the off-season, and since Happ next year will be an almost-36-year-old rental, he will never have more trade value than he does at this moment. The Astros have prospects at AAA that could be attractive to the Jays in the sense that it will bolster their internal options and possibly accelerate their timeline while they still have Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Stroman, and Bautista on their roster.
Why the Astros would do it:
Happ is having a stellar season after an even-better 2016. He's striking out nearly a batter per inning and has decreased his walk rate to a paltry two per nine innings. Being under contract for next year is attractive. Mostly though, because of his age, contract, and solid mid-rotation performance (instead of ace performance), he should cost them less in prospects than many of the other names that the fans keep trying to link the club to.
Given the depth of the system and high-floor nature of several guys who are currently blocked(ish) at the ML level, I think this deal could be made without parting with any of the Astros' top five or six prospects. Some combo involving two or three guys Teoscar Hernandez, Tony Kemp, Tyler White, A.J. Reed, J.D. Davis, Colin Moran, and right-handed pitching prospects not named Whitley, Perez, or Martes could probably make it happen. David Paulino, maybe? Happ also won't hinder the Astros' long-term efforts to extend its current stars, which would be a risk with somebody like, say, Samardzjia.
leistomania93- Brad Brach
Brad Brach from Baltimore. I was typing out a left-handed reliever (Justin Wilson from Detroit) when I thought of a question - how do we feel about the status of the right-handed relievers in the bullpen? I'm a huge fan of the current state of the Astros bullpen, but have noticed some deficiencies. Hoyt and Feliz may not turn into dependable relievers for high-leverage playoff situations. Luke Gregerson seems back based on his numbers for the last few months, but he hasn't been trusted for many high leverage innings. Will Harris just went on the DL with a shoulder issue, which could be nothing or a "rest"-based DL stint...but it could be worse.
So I'll go with Brad Brach, who's completed the Baltimore three-headed bullpen giant for the last few seasons. Along with Darren O'Day and Zach Britton, Baltimore has had one of the more underrated bullpens that have turned a team with an often-unsustainable run differential into an AL East contender. Baltimore is going into sell mode, and Brach could fill a versatile bullpen role for the postseason, depending on the health, effectiveness or deployment of other relievers.
Jason Marbach- Justin Wilson
I think Sonny Gray is the most likely guy, but Brian already wrote him up better than I could, so I'll say Justin Wilson. I don't think there's a real need, I really don't (I love our relievers versus right AND left-handed batters, no matter which hand our relievers throw with) but I think there's a PERCEIVED need in the media and the fan base, and I think the synergy tied to that from a dollars and cents and butts in seats and positive press point of view has to be taken into effect, even though I'm not crazy about it.
I think Justin Wilson happens, and I think he is either a non-factor from a baseball point of view or a slight positive, relative to what's already here.
Idrees Tily- Zach Britton
Part of my justification is that I just feel that the astronomical (pun intended) acquisition cost of starting pitchers is going to prevent a trade on that front. And as much as I would like to will a Chris Archer deal into reality, I just need to accept the fact that it is not happening.....probably.
So with a starting pitcher out of the question, and our offense doing ok (sarcasm), that leaves us with the bullpen. And don't get me wrong, I consider the bullpen a strength. But why not strengthen a strength? So that leaves me with an answer of:
He seems like a guy that our front office would target, because he would come with warts - because his recent injury is concerning. But with his injury risk also comes immense reward. Britton is still only 29, and is controlled for the rest of this season and the next. When healthy, he has proven to be among the best bullpen arms in the game, quite possibly THE best closer. And although Tony Sipp has actually turned his season around quite nicely, Britton adds an elite lefty to our already-scary bullpen.
Just imagine for a moment a bullpen with the following weapons: Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Ken Giles, and Zach Britton. Going into a playoff game (if we are fortunate enough to get there), our starters would understand they need to just go 5 strong, and the bullpen will take over from there. I can't quantify that, but I think there is some value in starting a game with that mindset.
The problem is, I am not sure what the Orioles would demand for a return. I don't think talks get very far if they demand either Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley, or Francis Martes. But what about a duo of Yordan Alvarez and Derek Fisher? I know both kids are having fantastic seasons, and it definitely would hurt if we trade both of those guys away, but how many of us will be thinking about either one during Game 6 of the World Series, with Zach Britton getting the call to close out the season?
clack- David Robertson
I'll take a wild guess. David Robertson, White Sox closer. The Astros obviously liked him enough to offer him big money when he hit free agency; instead the Astros settled for Gregerson (no slight intended--he has been good). No reason to believe they don't still like Robertson's stuff. He has two years remaining on his pricey contract, and the Astros likely would be in the market for a good veteran reliever when Gregerson's contract expires.
For the White Sox, there is no real need for his big contract and 31 year age, given their all-in rebuilding effort. I wouldn't give up top tier prospects for a reliever, but maybe the White Sox would accept second tier prospects if the Astros absorb the contract. Reinforcing the bullpen takes some pressure off the starting rotation, and extends depth to the high leverage relief pitching, so that guys like Hoyt, Feliz, and Sipp don't get pushed into that role when the inevitable bouts of injury or ineffectiveness weaken the bullpen.
I disagree with Jason about the value of adding to the bullpen. The Astros' bullpen was very good in 2015 and 2016, but the bullpen's ERA deteriorated to 5.63 and 4.21 (respective) in Sept./Oct.
A minor rebuttal there, if I may be permitted: I definitely agree that adding a fresh arm to the pen can be advantageous late in the season. I think that kind of addition is best suited to come from within, though.
David Robertson has appeared in 31 games (33.1 IP), and the guy I mentioned, Justin Wilson, has appeared in 37 games (35.1 IP). I see no significant reason not to worry about September fades from either of them (31 and 29 years old, respectively) as opposed to Will Harris (32 years old, 34 games/34.2 IP this year) or Luke Gregerson (33 years old, 38 games/35 IP this year) or Tony Sipp (34 years old, 32 games/27.1 IP this year) over the course of the year.
If, however, there is a Dean Deetz or Mike Hauschild type (not those guys specifically, just someone like that) who can come up down the stretch as a September call up and really help carry the bullpen so the core, playoff roster relievers can get rest, that makes more sense to me personally than giving up a lot (relatively speaking) to get a reliever who ALSO runs a fair risk of a fatigue fade down the stretch. It helps, here as in so many other areas, to have such a massive lead in this essentially-sewn up division.
Actually, my thought here is that a significant part of the value of acquiring a good reliever with remaining control is to add bullpen WAR next season...because the team will be trying to acquire a veteran high leverage reliever next season to replace Gregerson.
Oh. An excellent point.