At the 2017 waiver trade deadline, the Astros consummated a deal with the Detroit Tigers which was arguably directly responsible for the team’s World Series championship. The deal brought longtime ace Justin Verlander to Houston where he seemed to regain his prime form overnight, making immaculate start after immaculate start down the stretch and into the postseason- including his immortal performance against the Yankees in the ALCS. Verlander continued to demonstrate that he remains a frontline starter in 2018 and looks primed for another Cy Young caliber season in the last year of his current contract. In short, the deal has worked out better than the Astros could have possibly imagined at the time, and will likely be a huge part of Jeff Luhnow’s legacy in Houston for years to come.
There are few prices that would not be worth paying for what JV has given Houston in the last year and a half, and while the Astros paid a hefty price tag for the veteran ace and those players have largely improved their stock since, Houston would happily make the deal again and likely be willing to offer even more in return. With that said, let’s take a look at what the Astros’ organization lost in bringing a Hall of Famer to Crush City.
Franklin Perez, RHP
At the time of the trade, Perez was a top prospect in the Astros’ organization and consensus top-100 overall. An athletic hurler with a 6’3” frame and four pitches, Perez has shown an easy mid-rotation ceiling for some time now. He has largely been a strong statistical performer in the minor leagues, and had reached Double-A as a teenager with the Astros organization in 2017. He immediately became one of the Tigers top prospects, and had fans excited entering the 2018 campaign. Unfortunately, it was a season that would never get off the ground for Perez, as a lat issue shelved him early on, and he struggled after returning. Shortly thereafter, he succumbed to shoulder trouble and was shut down for the season, but did not require surgery. He has only thrown 19 innings since being dealt and has seen his stock decline in that time, but is just 21 years old and has plenty of time to right the ship and make good on his mid-rotation upside.
Jake Rogers, C
A 2016 draftnik favorite, Rogers was popped by the Astros in the third round that season and has steadily built his reputation since. A Tulane product, Rogers was seen by most evaluators as the most solid defensive catcher in the class with potential for average offense. His defense remains very highly regarded, and he has held his own as a hitter as he has moved up the ladder. During 2017 with Houston, Rogers managed a .357 OBP and 12 home runs with High-A Buies Creek, posting strong K/BB numbers to boot. He made the leap to Double-A in the Detroit organization this past year, and struggled to make as much contact, whiffing in 27% of his plate appearances. On the plus side, he had a .193 ISO and 17 home runs, and maintained a solid 10% walk rate to buoy his .219/.305/.412 slash. He had an impressive AFL campaign and continues to show potential to be a 4 hit/5 power bat with 7 defense, which would make him a very valuable player. He should figure heavily into the catching mix in Detroit in the future, perhaps as early as 2019.
Daz Cameron, CF
For a prospect of his age, Cameron has a long history. Son of the explosive Mike Cameron, Daz was identified as a 1.1 candidate early in his high school days thanks to his bloodlines, polish and balanced toolset. He tailed off slightly later in his prep days as his tools became a bit less highly regarded, but remained a strong first round prospect leading up to draft day and only made it to Houston because of his large bonus demand, which took him out of the range of teams with smaller bonus pools. He’s added polish to his game steadily since being drafted, and has recently cracked some preseason top-100s. While Cameron hasn’t developed much power to this point, the rest of his tools have the potential to be at least average and he has developed a strong approach at the dish. Cameron is very smooth in the field and should be able to handle center field just fine, and has enough arm to cover either corner when necessary. The fourth outfielder profile gets thrown around a lot, but Cameron has the look of a legitimate roving 4th OF who will get on base at a steady clip, provide baserunning and defensive value, and occasionally some pop as well. Should he make larger than anticipated strides with the bat, there is real potential for him to be a regular in center field, where he projects as a solid average defender. Cameron’s future role likely rests on his contact rate, but there is little doubt that there will be a spot for him in the bigs in some capacity with the skills that he already shows in the field and on the bases.
Considering Verlander’s performance level prior to coming to Houston and the amount of money he was owed, even with the Tigers footing much of the bill, Detroit did incredibly well for themselves in this trade. Rogers could well be the team’s starting catcher in 2020 and may be a plus-plus defender, and Cameron will provide much needed competition in the outfield as the Tigers take stock and focus their future plans. Perez, the headliner of the package at the time, could turn the return for Detroit into a true home run if his health cooperates and his stuff and command remain intact. I think the Astros are already happy with their end.