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To trade or not to trade: The case for trading Corey Julks and keeping Chas and Jake.

The Astros need help. But you can’t get something for nothing. Which asset should the Astros trade?

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Editors note: The following contribution was written by friend of TCB, Daniel May.

The MLB hot stove is heating up, and, not surprisingly, the Astros have some critical decisions to make at the trade deadline. The Astros’ actions will likely depend on the health of Yordan Alvarez; if he is healthy, which by all accounts he will be, then Dana Brown should pursue more pitching. The offense seems to be heating up, and the most significant area for improvement will likely be the bullpen; who wants to see another Montero meltdown? Whoever the Astros trade for, they will have to give up assets to fill those holes. Ideally, the Astros will trade assets that are more valuable to other teams than they are to them.

The Astros currently have four healthy outfielders that are capable of playing every day, but with the likely return of Yordan and Dubon filling the super-utility role, one outfielder is superfluous to the team. Kyle Tucker is obviously a non-starter, so the choice comes down to Corey Julks, Jake Meyers, and Chas McCormick. If the goal is to improve the organization for this season, then Dana Brown should trade Corey Julks and hang on to Meyers and McCormick.

Chas McCormick

First, let’s remember just how valuable Chas McCormick has been to the Astros. From the start of the 2021 season to today, Chas is 100th among position players in fWAR, which is more impressive when considering that he has registered less than 900 plate appearances in that span. Far from being a one-dimensional player, McCormick has a proven track record of success on both sides of the field with a career wRC+ of 112 and 23 career-outs above average. Furthermore, McCormick is cost controlled and will not be a free agent until the conclusion of the 2026 season. GMs trying to “win now” do not jettison cost-control players with a proven track record of success, especially when you consider that no immediate or reliable replacement is available (more on that later).

Jake Meyers

Jake Meyers has been an integral part of the Astros’ 2023 season. As an average hitter (99 wRC+) who can play elite defense (7 OAA), Meyers has produced 1.5 WAR, making him the 4th most productive position player on the 2023 Astros. Trading Meyers away will significantly hurt the Astros’ outfield defense, as it will require Corey Julks to play more LF, who, according to baseball savant has only produced one out above average in the outfield this year. Also, like Chas McCormick, Jake is cost controlled and will not be a free agent for several years. Trading McCormick or Meyers does not make sense because they can play in the outfield together, are helping the team right now, and will be cheap for the foreseeable future.

Of course, it is tempting to think that Brantley can recover and find his old form completely, making either McCormick or Meyers expendable. This is likely to be wishful thinking, though, as Brantley has not played in almost an entire year, and he is also 36 years old. Whatever the Astros can get from Brantley is icing on the cake at this point.

Drew Gilbert and company: Be excited, but they are not guaranteed success.

The Astros have plenty of quality outfield depth in the upper minors; In fact, their top 4 prospects are all outfielders. However, it is important to note that they are likely at least two years away from debuting in the big leagues, and even if they do make it to Astros, it is a strong possibility that they will be significantly less productive than Chas or Jake.

According to a study done by Christian Conforti, a baseball sabermetrician, between 2005 and 2015, only 70% of first-round picks made it to the major leagues, and of those players who made it, their career WAR was slightly less than 7. Although this is an imperfect analysis, it is interesting to note that even the best prospects have difficulty panning out.

Furthermore, according to an analysis by 538, the expected career WAR for a prospect ranked between 50 and 100 is less than five wins. Considering that Drew Gilbert is the only prospect in that range, it is very likely that most of the Astros’ outfield prospects do not contribute at the big-league level. Thus, trading away an MLB starter with the expectation that someone like Gilbert or Melton can replace them would be foolish. Instead, it would be better to trade a player that is not as skilled as Meyers or McCormick.

Corey Julks: cash out while you can

Listen, I like watching Julks play as much as the next Houston fan. He hustles, he’s a local kid, and he seems to have a great attitude overall. However, for various reasons, he is the perfect trade candidate. For one, in his current form, he is not helping the big-league club. Although he is currently rocking a 95 wRC+, which is only slightly below average, his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) is .277, suggesting that he is due for a regression.

On defense, as previously stated, he has only produced one out above average. That is not to say that he is incapable of improving, he will just need every day starts to do so, which is something a playoff team with more productive options cannot afford to give him.

Secondly, Julks provides good value for the Astros’ most pressing need, a late-inning reliever. Due to the volatility in relief pitching, it is not desirable to pay a premium for a cost-controlled reliever; instead, it is better to go after impending free agents who are having a lights-out season.

With that said, Julks makes sense as the headliner for a trade for a reliever that matches that description. Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals has a 3.10 FIP and 3.31 xERA so far this season, a significant upgrade over Montero and Martinez, and is set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the season. Fangraphs currently projects him to produce approximately .5 wins above replacement for the rest of the season.

While Julks may have a ceiling value that is significantly higher than half a win, his floor is zero wins. According to the website “Baseball trade values,” this trade is fair for both teams, and while this may seem like a slight overpay for the Astros, remember that there will be considerably more buyers than sellers at this year’s deadline.


The Astros do not have the need or the assets available to make a big splash at the deadline this year; instead, they should look to improve the team incrementally, as they did in 2021, and to a lesser extent in 2022 (Dusty just didn’t use the assets available to him).

By trading Corey Julks for a relief pitcher the Astros will unload a player that is unlikely to help the team this year or in the future and improve the team immediately by solidifying the weaker part of the bullpen. Although it is tempting to attempt to trade McCormick or Meyers for a more valuable player, this will likely hurt the team’s chance of success this season as it will force Yordan to play more left field, thus increasing his injury risk, or compel the Astros to play Julks every day, a role that he has not performed well in.

Lastly, while the Astros have tons of outfield depth in their farm system, it is important to understand that the ceiling for most of those guys is what Chas and Jake are right now and that there is a strong possibility that even Drew Gilbert will not be as productive as Chas or Jake.