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Who’s Shipping Out? Which Players Under Control Might Be Trade Bait?

Expect some changes. But which ones?

MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is a time to improve, or to decline, or to tread water. Teams do this through extensions, signings, non-tenderings, 40-man protection, and trades.

Despite the longstanding success and veteran-laden make-up, there are no bad contracts on this team, by which I mean contracts where the money owed outpaces the player’s production. The closest is Pedro Baez, but that’s due to his being injured. If he’s back to his old self, he’d be desired at the deadline. So every Astro is tradable.

Here is the 2022 salary allocation per Spotrac.

Teams who trade can trade from a position of strength (meaning they have two or more players who are at the same position), or they can trade based on a timeframe (someone who can help you win now vs. someone who can help you win later).

The Astros most obvious position of strength is CF, meaning they have two players who are very similar and project as potential starters. One of these should go. Ergo, trade prospect #1....

  1. Chas McCormick

The Astros have 3 CF who profile as average-to-plus defensively (by average, I mean average for an MLB CF, which is pretty darn good)—Jose Siri, Jake Meyers, and Chas McCormick. Of the 3, Chas got the most playing time and put up an impressive wRC+ of 109 in 320 PAs. Together with his solid base-running and defense, he accumulated 1.9 WAR. Meyers had 1.1 WAR and wRC+ of 111 in 163 PAs. Siri didn’t get to hit much but showed huge power and speed and no plate discipline in 49 PAs. Still, Siri seems like a fun 4th OF for a team that lacks energy.

Based on September and early October playing time, The Astros favor Meyers, whose defense and hit tool are the best of the three. Still, Chas is quite intriguing, as he seemed to flash good defense, foot speed, and legit power, although teams got smart on him after his power surge. Many GMs look out and see a starting outfielder when they see Chas. I suspect he would fetch more than Myles Straw could garner, which wasn’t a bad haul.

The logic for dealing Chas is that one is dealing from a position of strength, and if he’s the 4th/5th OF on a team with Tucker, Meyers, Brantley, and sometimes Yordan, he’s not going to be giving value to the Astros that he could if he played more. While I personally like Chas more than Siri, I doubt Siri will fetch much because he’s seen as someone the Astros pulled off the scrap heap and would only get to play every day on a rebuilding team trying to get him reps.

2. Jake Odorizzi

Why propose trading from a position of weakness if you just said teams should trade from a position of strength? Let me explain. The rotation poses a problem for upgrading. It has two at the top (Lance and Framber) who flash ace on their good nights but have serious warts. Behind them is Luis Garcia whose stuff can be electric but is still learning how to pitch. And in Urquidy they possess a textbook 4 starter whose x ERA and ERA were both under 4 in 2019 and 2021, and who controls the zone and can pitch deep in games. All of those guys are way too good to bump from the rotation or send to AAA.

Odorizzi, meanwhile, will be 32 on opening day, yet is only two seasons removed from a season where he K’d 27% of hitters and threw up a 3.36 FIP in 159 IP. He’s owed 2 years and 14.5 million. You don’t pay someone 7 million/year to be your mop-up man, and as a 5th or even 4th starter on most teams, he’s fine. Odds are that he’ll be better in 2022. But if the Astros think they should spend their money on a Kevin Gausman, then it seems like they should trade Odorizzi, who provides value for teams who need a 4 or 5 starter than he would for the Astros as a swingman. They have Javier for that at 1/10th of the price.

What about pitching depth? Ideally, the kind of depth you want are guys who can be optioned to AAA and are able to make spot starts or fit in for a month or two; i.e., you want the kind of guys who did just this in 2021: Peter Solomon and Tyler Ivey (who are cheap and have options). For 2022 add Hunter Brown and Jonathan Bermudez to that list. Or make a trade for that kind of arm that costs less.

If you tell Luis Garcia who got you to the WS to spend three months in Sugar Land, you’re nuts. Likewise for Jose Urquidy. Furthermore, you’re just wasting really good starting pitching in AAA.

3. Michael Brantley

This one is a little out of the box, but hear me out. The problem with the 2021 Astros on the offensive side was that they were slow (27th in steals) and lacked power (2 HR in 6 WS games and frequent regular season games of 6 singles, 0 EBH, 5 Ks, and 3 GIDPs). Nobody embodies that more than Brantley, who is an amazing professional hitter, a perfect stoic, and someone who didn’t hit a bomb after 8/15 (177 PAs). His ISO was in 2021 was .126 and he stole one base.

He also has the 2nd highest contract on the team for 2022 (16 mil). Still, Brantley is a valuable player who could potentially bring you something back. The team has enough professional hitters (Yordan, Yuli, Bregman) that I don’t think they’d overly suffer.

If the Astros trade him, they could roll into 2022 with elite OF defense (Chas/Meyers/Tucker), and they could also get something back. They could also sign a Chris Taylor type to be a souped-up Diaz with foot speed. Brantley could potentially headline a deal for an aggressive team like Miami that has two top 50 MLB-ready pitching prospects but may want to compete now.

It’s not 2018 and the Astros probably can’t swing a deal giving up minor league talent for major league starters; their system is just too weak. Short of blowing the team up, these three players (or sub Siri or Meyers for Chas) are the best cards that the Astros hold.