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    Breaking Down The Astros’ Trade Deadline, Move By Move

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    We are just about three weeks removed from the MLB trade deadline, and I think we’ve had enough time to assess and understand all that went down in those hectic last few days leading up to July 31st. While the Astros didn’t make any blockbuster trades like we’ve seen in deadlines past, GM James Click turned one of the least effective bullpens in baseball into one of the most effective groups in baseball through several trades. 

    The Astros acquire RHP Yimi García in exchange for RHP Austin Pruitt and OF Bryan De La Cruz

    Grade: B

    There aren’t multiple components or moving parts in this trade like we see in the other two; just a rebuilding club moving a solid relief arm in exchange for young outfield depth and another arm. García, 30, is a 7 year veteran on an expiring contract that has posted a 3.61 ERA, 3.70 SIERA, and 4.00 FIP over 42.1 innings this year. He’s nothing to write home about, but he’s a reliable middle relief guy for a team that desperately needs a reliable middle relief guy.

    As one might expect, the Marlins’ return also isn’t anything to write home about. De La Cruz, 24, profiles as a 4th outfielder with solid defense and a developing bat. He never had a clear path to the majors, as the Astros boast a deep outfield group under team control. This group is led by Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Yordan Alvarez, and Jake Meyers, with guys like Michael Brantley here to hold down a spot for the short term. If the Astros were to hold onto De La Cruz, he would’ve reached Rule 5 draft eligibility in December. Considering the Astros were unlikely to protect him based on the plethora of outfield talent they have on their roster, it’s a strong possibility that a team would’ve pulled him out of the Astros’ system after the strong year he’s had in AAA this year. Pruitt, 31, was traded from the Astros to the Rays in 2020 in exchange for RHP Peyton Batterfield and OF Cal Stevenson. The Astros hoped to revert him back to his role as a back end starter/long relief that he held in Tampa. They didn’t really give him a chance, and they DFA’d him after only throwing 3 innings for the team before trading him to Miami. He’s under team control through the 2024 season, where I presume he’ll serve as an innings eater for Miami, health permitting. 

    I give this trade a B for the Astros because GarcÍa is on an expiring contract, and I feel like they could’ve gotten a little more value for De La Cruz and Pruitt.

     The Astros acquire RHP Phil Maton and C Yanier Diaz from the Indians in exchange for OF Myles Straw.

    Grade: B-

    Minutes before the deadline, the Astros shocked everyone and shipped off their starting center fielder to Cleveland in exchange for relief pitching help and a young catcher. Straw, 26, appeared in 98 games for the Astros, and slashed a solid .262/.339/.326 with a .288 xwOBA and a 94 wRC+. Straw’s value doesn’t come from his bat, however. Through 994 innings in CF this season, Straw has posted an outstanding 9 Outs Above Average, which places him in the 98th percentile for OAA in the major leagues. In addition to his elite defense, Straw has swiped 21 bases, and has put up an elite 4.1 BsR this season. Needless to say, Straw brings a lot to the table, and he’s under team control through the 2025 season; safe to say there’s definitely a lot of value there.

    For the Astros’ side of things, they received some solid value as well. Maton, 28, is a right-handed reliever that’s under team control through the 2023 season. On the surface, he’s posted a less than ideal 4.35 ERA in 49.2  innings this season, but there’s more to Maton than what meets the eye. His peripherals for this season read as follows: 12.50 K/9, 3.39 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, and a stellar 3.24 SIERA. Something else to note is that Maton has posted a 2.29 ERA with solid peripherals since the start of July, which directly follows the late-June foreign substance crackdown, so he’s not one of those guys that found all of his success from foreign substances. The Astros also acquired 24 year old catcher Yanier Diaz in the deal. Diaz possesses a plus arm, plus power, and a good knack for contact; poor plate discipline will limit his ceiling unless he takes a more patient approach, however.

    With this trade in particular, there’s more to it than just the pieces involved. With Straw being moved, it opened up a space for the Astros’ Jake Meyers, a 25 year old OF that slashed .343./.408/.598 in 68 games in AAA this season. In his first action in the majors, he’s picked up where he’s left off. In 11 games so far, he’s slashed .333/.400/.630 with a 185 wRC+ and a .383 xwOBA. Along with his superb offense, Meyers offers elite speed (29.2 ft/sec, 96th percentile), and elite defense (Already has 1 OAA and 3% SRA). This is all great and promising, but you have to take all of these numbers with a grain of salt considering it’s quite literally been 11 games. Regardless, it’s always fun to project and get excited after a fast start.

    I gave this trade a B- because I feel like the Astros could’ve gotten more value for Straw. 26 year old CFs with elite defense/baserunning and serviceable hitting don’t grow on trees, especially those with 4 years of team control left. I do believe that this trade improved the roster because Maton is an upgrade over Bielak and Abreu, and because it gives Meyers a chance to play.

    The Astros acquire RHPs Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero from the Mariners in exchange for INF Abraham Toro and RHP Joe Smith.

    Grade: B+

    One day after blowing a 7-0 lead to the Mariners in one of the most crushing losses of the season, the Astros turned around and traded for the Mariners’ shutdown closer, along with righty reliever Rafael Montero. In exchange, Seattle received RHP Joe Smith and INF Abraham Toro, a true third baseman who can also dabble as a utility man. Toro, 24, has major league experience at 2B, 3B, and 1B. His 2B defense leaves a lot to be desired, but he grades as a plus defender at third and an average defender at first. His versatility is nice, but Toro also provides solid value with his bat. Although Toro never reached his full offensive potential as an Astro, he’s been phenomenal for Seattle since the trade. Since the deal, Toro is slashing .319/.410/.514 with a 161 wRC+, even though he’s cooled off immensely over the last week. Regardless, Toro projects to be the Mariners third baseman of the future with Kyle Seager likely departing this offseason, and with Toro being under team control through the 2025 season. Joe Smith was essentially just a throw-in who was on the verge of being DFA’d due to his poor results this season. His salary happened to match Montero’s, so the teams just made the swap.

    As you can see, the Astros paid a steep price to bolster their bullpen. But boy, did they desperately need to bolster their bullpen. Kendall Graveman, 30, has completely revamped his career in his contract year after transitioning from a starter to a reliever this season. In 41 innings, Graveman has posted a stellar 0.88 ERA, 9.66 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, and 2.53 SIERA this season. Graveman provides the bullpen another much needed lockdown presence next to closer Ryan Pressly. Graveman’s looming free agency complicates his trade value, but he’ll still provide immense bullpen help from this point on through October, and an extension is always a possibility. Along with Graveman, the Astros acquired Rafael Montero, a 30 year old reliever. His results this year have been pretty terrible (6.39 ERA in 49.1 innings), but his underlying metrics tell a different story (3.86 FIP, 3.52 xERA, and 4.05 SIERA). His Baseball Savant page this year also has a lot to like:

    One other thing to note is that the Mariners’ defense posted a -5 OAA behind Montero this year, which is just horrifically unlucky. Montero’s “pitch to weak contact” approach will find much more success in Houston, considering the Astros as a team lead all of baseball with 31 Outs Above Average this season. This makes a great segue to my next point; he already has found success in Houston. In his first 6 innings as an Astro, Montero hasn’t allowed a run. His underlying metrics have also slightly improved from his tenure as a Mariner; he’s posted a 2.51 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, and a 3.84 xERA. It’s subtle, but improvement is improvement. If Montero stays on this track, he could serve as a second Cristian Javier in the bullpen, which would be a dream scenario for the Astros. Unfortunately for Montero and the Astros, he’s been sidelined with a shoulder injury, and it’s unclear when he’ll be back.

    I gave this trade a B+ because I really like the pieces involved for each side. Graveman is the headliner with the big fastball that’ll draw eyes, but Montero is also a sneaky good reliever that had a lot of success as an Astro before his injury. The reason why this trade isn’t an A for Houston is due to the fact that I really like Toro too. Sure, he was blocked as the utility guy until 2023 when Aledmys Diaz may (potentially) leave in free agency, but he’s still very valuable nonetheless.

    To round it all up, the Astros didn’t pull off any blockbusters, but they did what they had to do in order to solidify the roster’s weakest area; the bullpen. And it worked. Since the deadline, the Astros bullpen as a whole leads the league with a phenomenal 3.06 SIERA, while they’re also top four in ERA (2.31). This is a very far cry from the 4.14 ERA, 4.00 SIERA bullpen the Astros had prior to the deadline. So far, James Click looks like a genius. We won’t know for sure how effective the Astros’ trade deadline was until after the season is over, but right now I’d say that I’m satisfied with the moves that Click made. The trades might not have been the most efficient, but it’s working, so I won’t question it. Here’s to a successful last few months without the weekly bullpen collapses that we’ve become accustomed to.

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