Luhnow Shows Restraint in Seller’s Market
Without a doubt, there are going to be a lot of mixed reactions to this trade deadline for Astros fans. When the clock struck 3 o’clock, and the deadline passed, the Astros were left having made two trades. Generally, when you hear that your team made two trades right at the deadline you salivate at the possibilities of who they might have brought in for the stretch run. Unlike Pavlov’s dogs, there was no salivating for Astros fans. Rather, Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros made two trades that were more reminiscent of 2012, where we were selling off every useful piece we had, then of a team who still finds themselves in contention for a wild card spot, assuming they don’t claw their way back into the division race.
Despite the fact that the Astros didn’t make a deal to specifically help the major league club, Astros fans should not be calling for Luhnow’s head. It was not for a lack of trying that the Astros did not make a move; rather, it was just too much of a seller’s market. Just look around the league at some of the deals that were made and the prices paid. Yes, I would have liked to have had a lefthanded reliever, but not at the price that some teams paid. For instance, to acquire lefty pitcher Will Smith, the San Francisco Giants traded Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac. Susac is a major league ready catcher and Bickford is ranked as the 65th best prospect in major league baseball according to MLB.com. Just for comparison sake, Kyle Tucker is the 61st best prospect. As an Astros fan, would you like to see Kyle Tucker go for a lefty reliever? I know I wouldn’t. Just for a little more clarity of the quality of prospect, Bickford now ranks two spots ahead of Brett Phillips (a player many Astros fans lament trading last year) on the top 30 Brewer prospects.
So before you get your pitchforks out, realize the market that Jeff Luhnow was working in. Realize that we were not going to get that top notch starting pitcher, like a Chris Sale, Chris Archer or Jose Quintana, without giving up the likes of Alex Bregman, plus a whole lot of other top notch prospects. Understand that even the mediocre players cost a lot in terms of prospects. I know it hurts, especially when you see that the Texas Rangers, who we are chasing in the AL West, bolstered their 25 man roster with the likes of Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, but those were just prices that Jeff Luhnow was not willing to pay. Trust the process of our minor league system. Reinforcements offensively are out there. We have offense knocking on the door. Tyler White and AJ Reed have already been up, Alex Bregman is in his first week of being an Astro, Yulieski Gurriel is probably two to three weeks away. And while some of these players have struggled in their major league debuts, their history has shown that they will eventually become acclimated to big league pitching. We have pitching, too. By trading Scott Feldman, it opened up a door for Joe Musgrove. James Hoyt is well on his way to deserving a call up as well. So as hard as it is, relax, and have faith in Jeff Luhnow and our minor league system to right the ship and give us on an opportunity to play in October.
On the other hand, be excited about the trades that we did make. As exemplified in our Astros Trade Review series, if there is one thing that Luhnow has shown time and time again, it is that he is able to trade for really talented minor leaguers. You don’t have to look back any further than to trades like the Jarred Cosart one (netted us Francis Martes), the Jose Veras trade (netted David Paulino), or the JA Happ trade (netted us Joe Musgrove) to see that Luhnow can find talent. My guess is he did exactly that with these deals as well.
First let’s look at the Scott Feldman deal. For a two month rental (Feldman will be a free agent after this season), the Astros received the Blue Jays 20th best prospect, Guadalupe Chavez. At 18 years old, Chavez had a 4-1 record with a 1.69 ERA for the Blue Jays Gulf Coast League team. Signed as an international free agent in 2014 at 16, Chavez features a plus changeup, low to mid 90’s fastball and a developing curve ball. Once again, that is a great return for a low-end bullpen / spot starter that the Astros easily replaced with Musgrove. Hey, and just for a little added bonus, as I am writing this article, we also just got a win because Feldman could not keep Altuve or Correa from getting hits so there is that, too.
Additionally, we also traded Josh Fields to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Josh Fields, who had a pretty good year out of the bullpen last year, struggled with the big club this year. As a result, we traded a 30-year-old, triple A reliever for a very interesting prospect in Yordan Alvarez. Alverez was signed as an international free agent earlier this year by the Dodgers for two million dollars. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, “He has a simple lefthanded swing, drawing praise from scouts highest on him for his bat control and ability to manage the strike zone well for his age. While Alvarez never showed much power in Cuba, he has since earned average to above-average raw power grades from scouts who have followed him at workouts. Some evaluators said he sometimes struggles to tap into that power in games in part because he doesn’t always generate enough lift in his stroke (58 percent of his batted balls were groundballs during his final season in Cuba).”
To recap, today left a lot of people wanting more, myself included, as I anxiously updated my Twitter feed hoping that I would see the Astros name come up in trade news. It just didn’t happen at the major league level. While it stings to see those trade chips go off the board to other teams, understand that sometimes the best moves are the ones that you never make. So while we have work to do at the major league level, it will be from the team that Jeff Luhnow constructed before the season, not by that he had to put together at the deadline.
**Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images**