You may have seen MLBTradeRumors’ article listing out the top 50 Trade Candidates, using a methodology that was a combination of trade value and likelihood of being traded. It’s definitely worth checking out as they dig in to each a little. We’re going to take a look at their list, strictly from an Astros perspective. I’ve put a grade next to each player based on my personal belief on how strong of a potential trade target they would be for the team. My evaluation will be based on 3 components, 1.) Team Need 2.) Contract Status 3.) Cost to Acquire.
The ideal targets would either be rentals or long term cost controlled assets that fit where the Astros have a gap.
**As a side note, I did an article in regards to the Astros salary and the challenges they will be facing to remain under the Competitive Tax Balance Threshold (as Crane stated we would). We currently only have ~$14 Million to replace or re-sign 7 players (Cole, McHugh, Miley, Chirinos, Harris, Rondon, Smith) in 2020 **
41. Wil Myers - San Diego Padres - OF - F
.217/.314/.402, 12 HR, 92 wRC+, 0.1 WAR
Contract: 6 Year $83 Mil (2017-2022) Free Agent: 2023
Myers had a break out season in 2016 and was rewarded with a very lucrative 6 year contract. Unfortunately, he has not been able to repeat since. As a 28 year old with previous success, there’s reason to believe Wil Myers could bounce back, but after three years, one has to believe his trade value is a significantly under water at this time and you would have to assume the Padres will eat a chunk of his salary to move him. The Astros have an All-Star studded outfield with both Alvarez and Tucker as top prospects filling the gap and a number of others as depth. From a need, cost, and salary perspective, I can’t see Myers as a fit with the organization.
42. Kevin Pillar - San Francisco Giants - OF - F
.247/.275/.418, 12 HR, 76 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
Contract: Arbitration $5.8 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Despite never being a league average hitter in his career, Pillar has been a consistent performer. Hitting 2.0 or better WAR in every year for the past 4 years. Pillar is a club controlled player who has consistently performed which will make him a much more costly asset than many would expect given his offensive performance. Similar to Myers, the Astros simply do not have a need in the Outfield, and the asset cost to acquire him would be prohibitive.
43. Billy Hamilton - Kansas City Royals - OF - F
.217/.284/.271, 0 HR, 49 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Contract: 1 Year $5.25 Mil (2020 Mutual option) Free Agent: 2020 (or 2021 w/ option)
Hamilton is a pretty unique, one dimensional player who generates practically all of his value through his legs. Hamilton is one of the fastest players in baseball ranking 5th, 6th, and 3rd prior to this year, although he has dropped slightly down to the 13th fastest based on Sprint Speed. Hamilton is a solid addition to most play-off caliber teams but you have to assume most teams consider him in the light of a 4th/5th OF for defensive and running purposes. For the Astros, this role is assumed by Jake Marisnick (with Straw as depth) who is slightly behind Hamilton in speed but with more pop in his bat. Without a need for him as a player and the “high” salary for a back-up player in an already overcrowded OF, I don’t see any fit for Hamilton with the Astros.
44. Adam Duvall - Atlanta Braves - OF - F
.195/.274/.365, 15 HR, 69 wRC+, 0.2 WAR
Contract: Arbitration $2.875 Mil Free Agent: 2022
Duvall is a cost controlled asset with club control until 2022. Unfortunately after 2 seasons of slightly above average production at the plate and one just below, Duvall’s wRC+ has dropped off. With that said, his BABIP does potentially indicate he has been the recipient of some poor luck. As with most of the outfielders above though, there’s simply not much room for a player like Duvall on the Astros.
45. Jose Abreu - Chicago White Sox - 1B - C
.278/.316/.522, 21 HR, 117 wRC+, 1.0 WAR
Contract: 1 Year $16 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Abreu seems to be one of the most commonly linked players to the Astros, and before Yuli’s recent resurgence, there were quite a few posters here clamoring for his acquisition. Abreu has been excellent since coming over at the age of 27, garnering a Rookie of the year nomination, 3 All-Star nods, and some MVP votes totaling a 133 wRC+ across his 5.5 year tenure. He did have a down year last year and underwent a lower abdominal/groin surgery in August of last year. While Abreu has not rebounded to the previous offensive performance he achieved, there are some good indications in his statcast numbers that he is producing at similar levels. The Astros were rumored to be interested in Nelson Cruz, but given Yuli’s resurgence and Alvarez bursting onto the scene, it’s still tough to see a potential fit for Abreu with the Astros. He is a pure rental, which does eliminate any future payroll issues and given his salary and current production you would have to assume that the overall cost to acquire him would not be overly prohibitive. If the Astros pursued a 1B, Abreu is not a terrible option, I just don’t foresee the need.
46. Alex Gordon - Kansas City Royals - OF - F
.275/.352/.447, 10 HR, 110 wRC+, 1.5 WAR
Contract: 4 Year $72 Mil (2016-19) + mutual option Free Agent: 2020 (2021 w/ option)
From 2011 - 2014, Gordon was a bonafied star, averaging over 5 WAR per year racking up both excellent defensive numbers, never below average offensive performance (even getting to 140 wRC+ in 2011), and adding 4 Gold Gloves to his resume (and 2 more since). At 35, he’s not the player he once was but has bounced back after 3 straight years of below average offensive production. If the Astros did pursue him, he could be treated as a 1-year rental as it is a mutual option on his contract so the salary component would not come into play. With that said, as with the other OF above there’s simply no need for another OF especially without some type of overwhelming results to force our hand.
47. Zack Wheeler - New York Mets - SP - A
6-6, 4.69 ERA, 3.82 xFIP, 3.98 SIERA, 9.83 K/9, 2.57 BB/9
Contract: 1 Year $5.975 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Wheeler was a top prospect who has flashed elements of greatness in his career but has been riddled with injuries and has had two years with sub-optimal results. I wrote an article about Wheeler as a potential for the Astros to acquire. While he definitely is not as flashy or as large of an upgrade as Syndergaard or deGrom, I actually see Wheeler as a much stronger option than many others. His peripherals indicate a far better performance than his ERA, and his arsenal fits extremely well within the “Strom Model” of high spin, high velocity 4-seamers and high spin breaking balls. The comparison to Cole was somewhat uncanny. This was the conclusion from my article:
For those who are firm believers in traditional stats, I’m sure nothing in this article has made an impact and will have a quick response of “No”, and admittedly I wasn’t over the moon with Wheeler as a trade candidate when I started the article. But he truthfully fits the Astros model of “Strom Magic” and would be an ideal turn-around candidate.
His current contract status easily fits within the Astros payroll restrictions, and he would provide another layer of security with a potential third ace for the play-offs if I am correct in regards to the changes in his arsenal. Ideally, the Astros would work to negotiate a short-term extension with him prior to Strom working his magic. I’m not sure on how realistic that is, as Wheeler may still believe he can get a nice Free Agent deal due to his past flashes of success.
48. Anthony Rendon - Washington Nationals - 3B - B-
.304/.386/.611, 20 HR, 150 wRC+, 3.2 WAR
Contract: 1 Year $18.8 Mil Free Agent: 2020
Rendon is a big player to dream on in 2019. While his primary position of 3B is occupied by Alex Bregman so there isn’t an obvious need, Rendon has played other positions (2B, SS) in the past with varying levels of success. A team acquiring Rendon is acquiring a star caliber player that makes sense on any roster. From an offensive perspective, Rendon provides not only a powerful bat but a keen eye (low K%, high BB%) leading to a high OBP as well. You would have to imagine that the competition would be stiff for Rendon as he mashes his way towards another 6+ WAR season. As for the Astros, he is a pure rental so his salary is of a lesser concern. In regards to need, Rendon could be an excellent fit if Correa is unable to rebound this year, or if the Astros are looking for a more versatile player to input into the line-up with an above average bat. I do foresee another team outbidding the Astros based on need for someone like Rendon, but I’d love to have him on our team.
49. Trevor Bauer - Cleveland Indians - SP - C-
8-6, 3.61 ERA, 4.39 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA, 10.16 K/9, 3.48 BB/9
Contract: Arbitration $13 Mil Free Agent: 2021
Oh Tyler Bauer. Never one to shy away from controversy and one that has had his share of ire from the Houston Astros fanbase. From a pure cultural fit, his accusations of the Astros pitchers, no love lost between him and Cole, his social media battles with Bregman, and even accused harassment of an Astros fan all point to a horrible fit. Truthfully, the Indians may not be sellers at the trade deadline given that they’re currently in line for a wild card spot. From a pure performance perspective, Bauer has not repeated his 2018 success but may be the best pitcher available at the trade deadline. I do credit Bauer as he has aggressively pursued improving his pitching performance and implemented quite a few of the aspects that are notoriously part of the “Strom Magic”. This of course does somewhat limit what improvements can be expected from Strom’s who has previously coached Bauer. From a salary perspective, Bauer had his “character assassinated” during arbitration, resulting in him already making $13 Million with a chance he could make close to $20 Million in next year’s arbitration hearing. All things considered, with his salary being the primary deterrent, Bauer would be a great addition but highly unlikely in my opinion.
50. Brad Hand - Cleveland Indians - SP - B-
4-3, 23 SV, 2.17 ERA, 3.06 xFIP, 2.59 SIERA, 13.26 K/9, 2.41 BB/9
Contract: 3 year $19.75 Mil (2018-20) +2021 club option Free Agent: 2021 (2022 w/ option)
Hand has been a consistently rumored target since his break-out year in 2016. Since the beginning of 2016, Hand has earned 3 All-Star nods while dominating to the tune of a 2.56 ERA across 278 IP. As with Bauer, I’m still hesitant to believe that the Indians have decided to become sellers as of yet, but if the decision was made Hand would become a valuable trade chip. For the Astros, Hand would be an excellent addition, particularly if you are a believer that the Astros NEED a left handed reliever. Hand’s salary is reasonable but will still be challenging for the Astros next year with the minimal remaining payroll space.
Tell us your thoughts. Do you agree with my grading? Who do you want the Astros to pursue? We will go through the rest of the Top 50 in upcoming articles, and luckily with how they did the rankings wasn’t based purely on player value so each of the articles should have some exciting players!
You can see Part 1 (1-10 on the list) Here
You can see Part 2 (11-20 on the list) Here
You can see Part 3 (21-30 on the list) Here
You can see Part 4 (31-40 on the list) Here