THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS
The Astros, under GM Jeff Luhnow, have never shied away from making trades during the season, both as sellers and, as of recently, buyers. With a current record of 50-42, the Astros have again established themselves as buyers this season. The team has started this trade season in a rather unorthodox way with the signing of Cuban slugger Yulieski Gurriel, while this move came with a high price tag (4.5 years, 47 million dollars) the Astros were able to add a player to help win this year without giving up anything in terms of future talent which is much more costly in the long run.
The first thing to look at in terms of trades and cost of future talent is what the market is doing and whether it favors buyers or sellers. While traditionally trading early proves to help the buyers, with the day of the deadline usually helping the sellers, that may not be the case this year. Last week the Red Sox and Padres completed a trade sending SP Drew Pomeranz to Boston in exchange for flame throwing 18 year old phenom Anderson Espinoza, a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. Pomeranz has been a mediocre starter for his entire career until this year, never eclipsing more than 150 innings in a season. This move alone goes to show you the lack of depth in the trade market, especially for starting pitching, and the potential cost of what it will take to upgrade the current team.
WHERE TO UPGRADE
Having entrenched themselves in the playoff picture after a horrendous April, the Astros will most certainly be looking to upgrade their roster for the potential playoff push. While the team has been playing well as of late, there are still many areas which can be improved. Luckily that due to organizational depth that Luhnow has been steadfastly acquiring through the years, many of these needs can be filled from within. The Astros biggest areas of weakness this season have been at 1B, OF and especially in the rotation. The signing of Yulieski Gurriel as well as the impending call up of top prospect Alex Bregman help alleviate a few of these weaknesses. Many outside the organization questioned the Gurriel move solely due to his position and the logjam it may have created in the infield, especially once Bregman receives the call. Gurriel has played mainly at 2B and 3B in his career but the Astros chose to also work him out in the outfield. While not his natural position, it could become an easy solution for this impending log jam, allowing Valbuena to move to first base and letting Bregman and Gurriel split time between third base and left field. With the Astros having a solution to solve their lineup holes, this leaves the glaring weakness on the team at the top of the rotation.
While the Astros have been pitching well as of late, they are still lacking at the top of their rotation and should be looking for solutions that will enable them to take the next step towards a deep playoff run. While Dallas Keuchel is a true ace, he has not pitched up to the standard he set in his Cy Young season last year. While he has been pitching better as of late and there are statistics that foreshadow him rounding into form (18th in FIP), the Astros could still use someone to pair with him to give them a dynamic 1-2 punch. While there have been many big names thrown around (Archer, Sale, Gray etc.)by baseball journalists and reporters, there does not seem to be much traction in any of those names moving as of yet and that is said to be mainly due to price.
Prospect bias is something almost everyone is guilty of, including me. What I mean by prospect bias is overvaluing your team’s prospects to ridiculous standards as well as expecting every single prospect to become an impact player at the big league level. This leads to overreaction by the fan base over most trades that the front office makes as well as filling their heads with ludicrous ideas of trading 4 lesser prospects for a superstar major leaguer. You have to give value to get value, luckily for the Astros they have quite a lot of value to give but fans need to be ready to see the cost. If the price for one run of the mill starter is a top 20 prospect, the price of a Sale, Archer or Gray will be astronomical. While it is important to look towards the future, the Astros have set themselves up to make a run this year and should do whatever it takes to make the team better to achieve their ultimate goal of a World Series Championship.
We will have and article highlighting six potential trade deadline targets for the Astros coming soon!
**Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images**