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The Legacy of James Click, Part IV

The last two trades of 2022

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

This is Part IV in a series of articles analyzing the legacy of former Astros General Manager James Click. This article will analyze the 2022 trade deadline trades that brought Will Smith and Trey Mancini to the Astros.

The Astros traded Chayce McDermott to the Orioles and Jose Siri to the Rays for Trey Mancini from the Orioles and Jayden Murray from the Rays. 8/1/22

Well, I’ve always admired the creativity of these multi-team trades.

In the last installment, I said there were three ways to evaluate trades.

  1. By the results
  2. How you could have reasonably predicted the results at the time of the trade
  3. How it helped the team overall
  4. Commenters added a fourth, trades as insurance against injury, especially applicable in the trade for Christian Vazquez

The Mancini trade is a classic example of how the first three approaches can yield very different conclusions.

The major piece in this trade was Trey Mancini to the Astros. He filled a big need with the injury to Michael Brantley, although it wasn’t known for sure at the time of the trade that Brantley’s injury was season-ending.

Going by the results, Mancini was a huge disappointment. Strictly a rental, in 186 PAs, Mancini hit OPS .622 after coming to Houston. He was a below-replacement player to the tune of -0.5 bWAR. And as we all painfully remember, he hit .048 in the 2022 playoffs.

On the other hand, the player the Astros surrendered, Jose Siri, hit better than Mancini (OPS .660) and is one of baseball’s best defensive centerfielders and base runners. His bWAR after 178 PAs was 0.7, 1.2 more than Mancini. Furthermore, Siri has five years of team control.

However, before coming to Houston, Mancini was hitting OPS .751 with a career average of .797 with Baltimore. Siri came to Tampa hitting .542 with the Astros in 2022. So by trade-evaluation criterion #2, based on reasonable expectations, the Siri for Mancini trade made more sense.

And then there’s how the trade affected the team. Chas McCormick was holding down center field capably (.733 season OPS), and Mauricio Dubon, another capable fielder, was hitting as well as Siri when Siri left. Plus, the Astros were anticipating the return of their preferred starting center fielder, Jake Meyers. Siri was replaceable on the Astros.

I would add that there are many who believe that Siri was not a good fit in the clubhouse, although that might be a mere rumor.

The bottom line is Siri was hitting terribly when he left Houston, improved somewhat upon his arrival in Tampa, but in any case, was redundant with the Astros.

The Astros surrendered 4th-round draftee, pitcher Chayce McDermott, for Jayden Murray. Murray is a 25-year-old who has topped out at AA with a 4.28 ERA last year. McDermott is 23 and, at the A+ minor league level, had a 5.38 ERA. But in 77 IP, he allowed only 60 hits with 124 Ks.

It’s doubtful either prospect will become a major factor at the big league level, but the Astros probably surrendered a higher-upside player.

At the time, the trade looked like a winner. It turned out to be a loser. But I’m probably not alone in not missing Jose Siri on the Astros, even with his athleticism.

Grade C. I can’t blame James Click for Mancini’s slump. Rental trades are always trades for a small sample of results. When the GM trades for a rental and the player gets hot, he looks like a genius, when that player goes cold, the GM looks like a dummy. Truth is, the GM doesn’t swing the bat or throw the ball. He can only go by past performance.

In evaluating Click, keep in mind he picked up Siri for nothing off waivers in 2021 and flipped him for the rental of a proven slugger.

Overall, Click looks extraordinarily unlucky as a trader. Let's look at some trade before-and-afters:

Cionel Perez, ERA before trade (career) 5.74...............ERA after, (2022), 1.40

Kendall Graveman, ERA before trade, (2021) 0.82......ERA after, (2021), 3.13

Yimi Garcia, ERA before trade, (2021) 3.47..................ERA after, (2021), 5.48

Myles Straw, OPS before trade, (2021) 6.65................OPS after, (2021), .739

Phil Maton, ERA before trade, (2021) 4.57...................ERA after, (2021), 4.97

Mauricio Dubon, OPS before trade, (2022) .636........ OPS after, (2022), .548

Christian Vazqez, OPS before trade, (2022) .759.........OPS after, (2022), .585

Trey Mancini, OPS before trade, (2022), .751..............OPS after, (2022), .622

Jose Siri, OPS before trade, (2022), .542....................OPS after, (2022), .660

Click’s greatest before and after success, Rafael Montero, wasn’t a success until the year after the trade. He got injured soon after his trade and only pitched six innings with the Astros in 2021.

Otherwise, in every case, the players Click acquired in trades did worse after the trade, and every player given up did better. The pattern is so strong you’re tempted to look for a reason.

One more trade:

Jake Odorizzi to Atlanta for Will Smith, 8/2/22

This trade is the epitome of a lateral trade undertaken to put players in places where they are more useful to their respective teams. The Astros were over-staffed in starting pitchers but had no left-handed relief pitcher. The Braves needed starting pitching depth. So the Astros unloaded Odorizzi’s $10 million salary and got a half-season of decent relief work from lefty Will Smith.

Smith did not pitch for the Astros in the postseason. However, his presence may have affected the way the Phillies constructed their lineup in the World Series. Odorizzi pitched three innings in the postseason for the Braves and gave up two runs. Breaking the pattern listed above, Smith’s ERA improved with the Astros, and Odorizzi’s performance got worse with the Braves, posting a 5.63 ERA.

Grade: B, Both teams got rid of players they didn’t need anymore and had no plans of keeping. But if the Astros hadn’t unloaded Odorizzi, he had a player option that would have represented a $10 million obligation against the Astros’ payroll in 2023. The Braves traded Odorizzi this winter to the Rangers and gave the Rangers cash in return for Kolby Allard.

Of course, it was Click who overpaid for Odorizzi to begin with, but in the wake of the Justin Verlander injury after Game 1 of 2020, that is understandable.

In the next installment, we’ll evaluate Click’s free agency moves.