Ahh, the trade deadline. I love this time of year. You can speculate and dream about acquiring that new, bright and shiny player who will surely lead your team to World Series victory.
This year, the Astros will have a decision to make. The luxury tax looms overhead with next to no wiggle room. Cody’s article estimated roughly $3 Million of flexibility, and it’s important to remember contract values are pro-rated, so it’s not their full annual salary. Jim Crane has already stated that the Astros are not bound to the cap, and there were statements made that if the Astros were to go over, it’d only make sense to do this if they go BIG.
Those are truly fun trade speculations, the ideas of getting Mad Max, Craig Kimbrel, Starling Marte shoring up potential weak spots as we eye a deep post season run is intoxicating. (Editor’s note: Max Scherzer has ruled out approving a trade to Houston, and Marte was acquired yesterday by Oakland.) And while having Charlie F’ing Morton back in an Astros jersey is still top of my Christmas in July list, I wanted to focus on the other end of the market. The part I’ve always enjoyed most is looking for those “diamonds in the rough” or “bargain bin” acquisitions that turn out to be huge components to a championship team.
The Astros’ newest acquisition, Yimi Garcia from the Marlins, was one such player that might fit that description.
Yimi García, Soul Stealing 92mph Slider.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 13, 2021
CB Bucknor pointing pic.twitter.com/iw76fs9vP1
From MLB Trade Rumors:
27. Yimi Garcia, RHP, Marlins: Garcia, 31 next month, has had a generally solid season but has seen a pair of recent hiccups boost his ERA by nearly a whole run. He’s still sitting in the mid-3.00s with a slightly below-average strikeout rate and above-average control. He has a 3.17 ERA in 113 2/3 innings dating back to 2019 and is pitching on a $1.9MM salary.
- 2021 Statistics: 3-7, 3.47 ERA, 36.1 IP, 8.67 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 4.63 xERA, 4.17 FIP, 4.20 xFIP
- Yimi Garcia’s Baseball Savant Page
This year, while Garcia sports a 3.47 ERA, none of the advanced stats seem to back that number with most pointing to a low to mid 4’s ERA reliever. Although it should be noted that Garcia has outperformed the metrics across his career by nearly a full point. (3.41 vs 4.22). Garcia epitomizes the roller coaster of performance by a reliever and small sample sizes. He possesses a fastball with a spin rate to dream on, but only carries 77% active spin. He’s a low risk, high potential reliever if his spin rate can be harnessed and be a bit more consistent. I’d see him developing as a solid mid-reliever with potential upside.
Garcia’s is already in the books. James Click has pulled the trigger with the Marlins to bring him to Houston in exchange for OF prospect Bryan de la Cruz and RHP Austin Pruitt.
But Click is not done yet. “We’ve got 44 more hours to go and we’re going to use all of those hours to continue to try to improve the roster,” he stated yesterday. (Now 31 hours at the time of this writing.)
More pieces like Garcia may still yet be headed to Minute Maid Park.
So in this piece, I’m focusing on a few other candidates that I believe hit a few of the following criteria: Salary under the luxury cap, an arsenal that would fit well under Strom’s methodologies, listed on MLB Trade Rumors Top 60 Trade Candidates, and a non-prohibitive cost in prospects to acquire.
These are three candidates that are at least rumored to be available, fit within the Astros’ budget constraints, and strengthen the team without a significant impact to the future.
1. Daniel Bard
Daniel Bard's game-ending strikeout yesterday: 100.8 mph / 2,833 rpm— David Adler (@_dadler) June 7, 2021
It's tied for the fastest K of his career... with one against Chone Figgins in the 2009 ALDS
Bard is throwing 101 mph more than a decade later and after being out of the league for basically seven years pic.twitter.com/IXwVDHUZ07
From MLB Trade Rumors:
21. Daniel Bard, RHP, Rockies: Bard has thrown 65 2/3 innings since making his remarkable return to the Majors last season and has posted a 3.86 ERA with a 27.2 percent strikeout rate and 10.2 percent walk rate in that time. He’s been the Rockies’ go-to option in the ninth inning for much of that time. The 36-year-old is actually controlled into 2022 via arbitration, so he could hold more appeal than many of the run of rental relievers to follow immediately.
- 2021 Statistics: 5-5, 3.98 ERA, 40.2 IP, 11.73 K/9, 4.43 BB/9, 4.06 xERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.75 xFIP
- Daniel Bard’s Baseball Savant Page
Bard is certainly one of the more unique stories in baseball. A 36 year old pitcher with an ERA near 4 may not seem all that attractive, but I do want to point out some really interesting elements about Bard’s profile. First, his salary of $2.925 million fits within the budget. And while I understand people being less keen on the “advantage” of him having additional control at his age, it’s something to be considered.
As for his arsenal, his velocity should immediately draw people’s attention. The 97.7 mph average on his 4-seamer ranks 18th highest in all of baseball. The 4-seamer spin rate ranks 2nd in all of baseball, although he does a terrible job of harnessing it at just 77% active spin. With that said, his Slider is his most thrown pitch to the tune of .221 xwOBA and a 40.3% whiff rate. Additionally, it’s worth noting that his FIP, xFIP and SIERA all point to some poor luck as well as pitching in Coors Field as an additional mitigating factor.
The cost to acquire Bard should be very low, but he would be a solid asset with potential to be a true weapon.
2. Paul Fry
Paul Fry, Two 86mph Sliders & Two Swords. ⚔️⚔️ pic.twitter.com/VgzreJr7w0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 14, 2020
From MLB Trade Rumors:
43. Paul Fry, LHP, Orioles: Fry has quietly stepped up as a solid lefty in the Baltimore ’pen. He isn’t a well-known name, which happens when you’re throwing late innings on a last-place club, but Fry carries a 3.24 ERA dating back to last year. His 31.4 percent strikeout rate is a career-high. Fry won’t be arb-eligible until this winter and is controllable through 2024.
- 2021 Statistics: 4-3, 3.49 ERA, 38.2 IP, 12.57 K/9, 4.42 BB/9, 2.99 xERA, 2.15 FIP, 3.07 xFIP
- Paul Fry’s Baseball Savant Page
Paul Fry is probably a lot more palatable of a trade candidate than Bard is, but would obviously come with a much higher acquisition cost, as the Orioles front office is certainly a more analytically advanced organization. But a 29 year old lefty with club control that fits in the budget and is rumored to be available is definitely worth exploring.
His profile is very different than Bard’s,. His 4-seamer clocks in at a 92.9 mph average, but with strong spin rates given the velocity. He rounds out his arsenal with a slider and a very rare change-up. He does not possess the raw unbridled stuff that Bard has, but his arsenal has already been shaped a lot more towards Strom’s methodologies, given the ex-Astros in the Orioles brain trust and pitching departments. A look at Fry’s underlying statistics show a much more valuable player than the traditional ones. MLB Trade Rumors notes the 3.24 ERA going back to last year, but the advanced stats actually show him even a tick better than that.
3. Joakim Soria
From MLB Trade Rumors:
26. Joakim Soria, RHP, D-backs: With a 2.70 ERA and a 16-to-3 K/BB ratio in 13 1/3 frames over the last month, Soria has begun to right the ship at the best possible time for the Snakes. He’s a proven veteran reliever playing on a one-year $3.5MM deal for MLB’s worst team. It’d be a shock if he still pitched for the D-backs come July 31.
- 2021 Statistics: 1-4, 4.30 ERA, 29.1 IP, 9.51 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 3.37 xERA, 3.74 FIP, 4.15 xFIP
- Joakim Soria’s Baseball Savant Page
As mentioned by MLB Trade Rumors, the Diamondbacks will likely be aggressive in moving Soria. Soria is past the days of him being an elite closer, but there’s few relievers in the league that can match his experience. His 753 career innings are the second highest of any active reliever, and 229 saves would rank 5th. As MLBTR notes, Soria has turned it around recently, and his velocity and spin rates have continued to rise this season when a lot of other pitchers’ spin rates have plummeted.