(Editor’s note. This is Cody Poage’s first article as a contributing member of the Crawfish Boxes staff. In the busyness of the trade deadline, he chipped in with this article explaining the Sanchez/Fisher trade. Introductions will follow. Welcome aboard Cody. Thanks.)
For the third consecutive year, the Astros and Toronto Blue Jays have made a deal before the July 31st trade deadline expired. Unlike last year’s acquisition of Roberto Osuna, however, the 2019 edition didn’t invoke much, if any, controversy.
From Shi Davidi of Sportsnet:
Full deal is Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini and Cal Stevenson for Derek Fisher. Sanchez was emotional speaking to media. Began conversation by thanking #BlueJays who drafted and developed him, and fans for support. Excited to join #Astros— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) July 31, 2019
The Astros acquired right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini along with minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson in exchange for outfielder Derek Fisher. On paper, it is a transaction that bolsters Houston’s pitching staff as the club prepares for another postseason push.
For Houston, Biagini will continue his work as a reliever, much like he did in Toronto. In 50 innings pitched, the 29-year old has posted a 3.78 ERA and 4.39 FIP for the Blue Jays, which isn’t great nor terrible. He does, however, draw some comparisons to last year’s trade deadline gem, Ryan Pressly, who also wasn’t high on everyone’s radar prior to his acquisition. The key attraction to Biagini, like Pressly, was probably due to the high spin rate on his curveball. Out of all relief pitchers with at least 50 results, Biagini’s curveball currently has the 21st highest average spin rate (2793 RPM). The catch? He’s only thrown his curveball 7.4 percent of the time this season. Biagini is under club control through the 2022 season.
Sanchez is the name that will draw more attention out of this swap, mainly due to his precipitous decline during the last few seasons. In 2019, Sanchez has posted an unsightly 6.07 ERA/5.04 FIP in 112 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays, all starts. Like Biagini though, Sanchez brings over a high average spin rate on his curveball, which is a pitch that the Astros actively seek to enhance. Out of all starters, again with 50 results, Sanchez is currently ranked eighth in average spin rate on his curveball at 2875 RPM. Although the results haven’t been there for quite some time, there is hope that pitching coach Brent Strom and the Astros’ analytics department can help Sanchez right the ship. But at this time, it is unknown whether the 27-year old right-hander will immediately reside in the rotation or the bullpen. The right-hander is under club control through the 2020 season.
From Jake Kaplan of the Athletic
The Astros still have to discuss how they’ll use Aaron Sanchez the rest of the regular season. They hope he can slide into their rotation next season if not this season, though.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) July 31, 2019
Stevenson, who is primarily a left fielder, was the Blue Jays’ 10th round draft pick in 2018. The 22-year old has a 137 wRC+ for Toronto’s A+ affiliate in 2019. At the time of the trade, MLB Pipeline listed Stevenson as the club’s 25th overall prospect, where he is projected as a potential future fourth outfielder on a major league roster.
Fisher, who scored the game-winning run from Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, was blocked on the Astros’ depth chart in the outfield behind the likes of George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, and Jake Marisnick. With Kyle Tucker also playing well at Triple-A Round Rock this season, there was little chance of advancement in Fisher’s immediate future with Houston. He will now receive a chance to prove whether his numbers with the Express this season (125 wRC+ in 270 PA) can translate into major league success if given the consistent playing time. Toronto can likely afford him such an opportunity.
Overall, the trade with the Blue Jays looks like a solid return for Houston. It didn’t cost much to acquire a pair of interesting arms that can help major league production right and also a potential outfield reserve in a few years. While the trade obviously wasn’t the biggest news of the day, it still represents the type of transaction that has helped the Astros thrive in recent years.
When one considers the cost to the Astros of the Greinke trade, keep in mind that in this trade the Astros added some reserve strength.