The Runner Sports

Fifty Trades Of Gray: Talking Astros Fans Off The Ledge Of Impending Doom

Christmas Day is over, and all the Houston Astros got was a pair of socks. All the cool neighborhood kids got a lot of huge, pretty presents, all of which will help them get to the big party in October, they’ll have no problem convincing themselves. They’ll also fall all over themselves trying to convince you.

The trade deadline, mercifully, is over, and while Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs fans and press are getting their respective and collective panties in a twist at how incredible their Monday largesse was, Astros fans and media have their panties (and new socks) in a teeth-grinding twist at having “only” landed Francisco Liriano for an overpaid utility OF (Nori Aoki), and a promising, but ultimately useless-to-Houston (so backed up at that position are they) OF prospect, Teoscar Hernandez.

Related: Beyond Liriano Trade, Astros’ Roster Buzzing With Activity

The Astros failed to pull off a deal for any of the other coveted arms on the market, particularly relievers Zach Britton and Justin Wilson (now a Cub), and starters Sonny Gray (Yankees) and Yu Darvish (Dodgers), all of whom, at one time or other during July were rumored to be going to Houston via trade, or ones who coulda/shoulda, according to those purported to be in the know.

Dallas Keuchel has been quoted, variously, as calling GM Jeff Luhnow’s efforts, Monday, as being “a little disappointing,” and “disappointment would be an understatement.” What a coincidence, Dallas, as those words could also be used to describe your mound efforts in 2017. Do your job, Dallas; bounce back from your neck injury, let Luhnow handle the front office, and don’t badmouth him for not bringing in a starter or two who might distract from your disappointing year, and carry part of the load you’ve not been able to.

Teammates Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick have both been, if not exactly complimentary on the lack of deals consummated, far more diplomatic (read: professional) in their assessment of Luhnow and the front office’s efforts.

Related: Altuve Propelling Astros With Jaw-Dropping Numbers

Grate Britton

Luhnow has been quoted as saying that many deals were in the works, and taken to the last hour/minute/second, but as sometimes happens, trades disintegrate for a variety of reasons, and no one’s really to blame.

The proposed Britton trade, alone, has drawn scrutiny of the sort, that if this were Washington, D.C., a grand jury might be impaneled. Britton is still an Oriole, by the way, so if other teams were involved in talks, they, too, failed to close their respective deals. Most accounts agree that the deadline day agreement to trade Britton to the Astros, while in place, ultimately fell through at the last second due to O’s owner, Peter Angelos, and his alleged concern about players’ medical reports. And, rumors abound that something similar (concerns over some Houston prospects’ medicals, last-second owner veto) happened to a couple other proposed deadline deals.

According to Fan Rag Sports, Astros owner Jim Crane (on Houston’s ESPN975), said there was “’an agreement in principle, medicals were exchanged and then (it) got vetoed at the top,’ before going on to make clear where he thought the deal died by volunteering that it’s not his way to call out ‘another owner.’”

Outside of the acquired Liriano and tried-for Britton, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also reported that there was a third “mystery reliever” that was a “high-end” type that would’ve “surprised the industry” the Astros had their sights on. This “mystery reliever” may have indeed been a player Houston thought wasn’t available, but had suddenly been put on the market because of the Astros’ persistence. We may never know.

The identity of the prospects (reported to have the medical concerns) in question isn’t known, though Roch Kubatko of MASN sports says (via MLB Trade Rumors) “the pair were both pitchers, and Rosenthal hears that as many as six to seven Astros prospects were deemed off-limits in trade talks for Britton. Ultimately, the Orioles ‘went dark’ on both the Astros and the Dodgers, who were also in the mix for Britton, for several hours before simply telling L.A. that Britton was off the table about an hour prior to the deadline, Rosenthal continues. Baltimore made a last-minute offer to Houston, but the Astros deemed it too steep.”

Prospect Envy: The Rationale

Luhnow has revealed that, while discussing prospective deadline deals, two names kept popping up: Houston prospects, Derek Fisher (ranked #4, according to MLB Pipeline) and Kyle Tucker (#1). Both left-handed hitting outfielders, Fisher is acquitting himself nicely as a lineup regular for Houston (awaiting George Springer‘s return off the DL), and Tucker is progressing through the Astros’ system, currently at Double-A Corpus Christi.

With the trades made recently by large market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs, with prospects being tossed about like so many Mardi Gras coins, Houston has felt some heat at being too reluctant to relinquish top prospects for, say, a proven starter or bullpen stud.

Using the cash-rich AL New York team as an example, the Yankees can easily afford to trade prospects for whomever, because options like top free agent signings are available to them at any time. Houston, somewhere around #10 in the payroll department, has to be far more selective in just who they let go. As core assets like Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa (to name but a few) start approaching arbitration and/or free agent years, if Houston can’t pony up the dough to corral one or some, Fisher and Tucker start taking on a far more valuable shine in 2017, if their services may actually be needed in 2019, say.

And, remember, these “reserves” (think bank or safe, not a dugout) are necessary for a smallish-market team like the Astros. The Yankees can’t keep a key player in a year or two? It won’t matter who’s in their farm system (and they likely won’t even look). They’ll just shovel up some cash, and go nab a headline-making free agent to take his place. Kinda makes missing out on Britton not quite so tantrum-worthy, doesn’t it?

Stay Calm and Trust the Process

With all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands that has accompanied virtually everyone’s assessment that the Astros head up the “Losers of the Trade Deadline” list, none of that will be able to be determined for another 90 days.

Will the Astros lose in the first round of the playoffs because “all” they got was Liriano? Will Darvish win deciding games in the NLCS and/or the World Series? Will Sonny Gray be on the mound when the Yankees dispense of Houston in the ALCS? In early August, way too many “yeses” are being uttered, for some reason. I may be all alone in the locker room on this one, but all I can see in my crystal ball is a schedule with 50 games left on it.

Luhnow’s last word: “Early in the trading season, the cost was extremely high on all players. It did come down a little bit in certain areas to the point we thought had some deals done. They were deals we were excited about getting to the finish line. It didn’t happen and we move on.”

Yes, we do.

And, besides, Justin Verlander has just cleared revocable waivers.

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle
  • Tom E. Snyder

    Well said.

    • Brad Kyle

      Thanks, Tom! Just get tired of all the sensationalistic, defeatist noise tossed in the ‘Stros’ direction! They just don’t and can’t operate the same way as the deep-pocketed Yanks and others! Our team wouldn’t be relevant in ’17 were it not for the home-grown prospects that are now Orange Core ’17: Springer, Altuve, Correa, Keuchel, Bregman, et al!