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In Luhnow We Trust: Revisited. Part II, The Trades

A checkered record

MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

I did a nine part series analyzing the Luhnow trades up to and including the Gerrit Cole trade. Out of seventeen, not including the most recent, some were neutral or insignificant in their impact, four count as successful to wildly successful, and seven were losers.

In the following trades, the Astros surrendered the players listed below without receiving WAR contributing players in return. (The Ryan Pressly trade is included here)

Luhnow Trades

Player Traded career WAR since trade
Player Traded career WAR since trade
Daniel Mengden 1.9
Domingo Santana 3.6
Josh Hader 6.7
Adrian Houser 2.0
Brett Phillips 2.3
Teoscar Hernandez 2.1
Jonathon Villar 11.1
Jed Lowrie 7.4
Dan Straily 4.7
Ramon Laureano 5.9
total 43

Another losing trade was the Evan Gattis for Mike Foltynewicz trade. It has lost the Astros 1.2 wins so far, but All-Star Foltynewicz has two more years remaining on his contract to widen that gap.

Of course, the biggest losing trade in this bunch, the most infamous in Astros history, is the Carlos Gomez trade. The Astros got a double dose of poison, Gomez and Mike Fiers, and gave up closer par excellence Josh Hader, slugger Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and up and coming starter Adrian Houser. A total loss of 15.2 bWAR and growing by the year.

But on the positive side of the ledger, there is the Greatest Trade of All-Time, the Verlander trade. It not only netted the Astros its first World Series win, but looks better and better over time. It is now apparent that the three top prospects the Astros surrendered don’t seem to be developing as expected, and Verlander, re-signed for two more years, turns out to be having a rebirth of his career; another no-hitter and Cy Young in 2019.

Then there is the Cole trade. In two seasons Cole produced 12.3 WAR. Of the parts the Astros gave up, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove, only Musgrove seems to be an above replacement player. When his time of team control expires, he will probably end up somewhere around 7 WAR.

Of course, another popular “Top Ten Trades of All-Time”...maybe... is the Josh Fields for Yordan Alvarez swap. Just how good this trade is remains to be seen in the next five years of the Astros’ team control of Alvarez. But in just over half of last season, Alvarez had 3.7 WAR. For Josh fields!

Ryan Pressly has netted 3.1 wins for the Astros in a year and a half, although Gilberto Celestino and Jorge Alcala, the pieces the Twins got for Pressly in return, both debuted in the majors last year, and might eventually supersede Pressly.

Although it is only a rough estimate, I figured that the Astros lost about 45 WAR in these trades ( a number that will grow for several more years) and only got about 24.

But of course...World Series.

And in Luhnow’s defense, Luhnow had a stacked team and a stacked farm system and he had to let many of these players go. There just wasn’t room for them all on the forty man roster. Opposing GM’s knew this, and were able to drive a hard bargain.

Furthermore, many of these “loser” trades were attempts to gain strength at the trade deadline to make a push for the playoffs. These trades are supposed to be “losers” in the long run for the buyers in the trade.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to conclude that Luhnow was some sort of evil genius who bamboozled the rest of baseball with three dimensional chess moves. And many of his good trades look good because the players the Astros got far out-performed historical expectations. Yes, Verlander, Cole, Pressly. (based on performance in preceding years before acquisition)

Which leads us to the next topic when we can at last talk about a Luhnow/Astro strength; player development/ player acquisition.