Maybe it was Jeff Luhnow’s plan all along.
Maybe Luhnow is taking a gamble. Then again, maybe it isn’t a gamble at all. At the very least, the odds seem to be on the Astros’ side to make at least a small wager. Trade one of the better pitchers today for an upgrade that matters tomorrow.
After all, the target isn’t 2014, it’s more like 2016, right?
Now, here’s the downside of the most recent Astros’ Top 20. With the latest draft debacle, only two players — Derek Fisher and A.J. Reed — joined the new list. No Brady Aiken. No Jacob Nix. And, no Mac Marshall.
So maybe those Rusney Castillo rumors aren’t rumors. A signing of the Cuban would certainly turn the conversation.
But back to the Top 20. Here’s some good news: Seventeen of the twenty prospects are projected to be in an Astros’ uniform no later than 2016. So, yes, the Astros have some flexibility to move some of its top echelon pitchers.
Three months ago, most fans — and even the Astros — seemed content with Matt Dominguez, Dexter Fowler, Jon Singleton, George Springer and maybe even Robbie Grossman and Jason Castro as part of the future core of the team. Now, only Jose Altuve appears to be the only sure thing, so exchanging some good pieces for better pieces might make some sense.
To be sure, trading Cosart, Keuchel and/or McHugh comes with a gamble. A huge gamble. It’s the type of gamble that’s all about timing. But, if you think about it, Luhnow has spent three years spreading the risk and preparing for the gamble. At some point, the Astros will need to roll the dice to avoid the major 2017-18-19 bottleneck I projected earlier this season.
For every Cosart, there’s an Appel, Foltynewicz and Nick Tropeano. For every Keuchel, there’s a Hader. And, for every McHugh, there’s a Michael Feliz or Lance McCullers or Vincent Velasquez or next year’s Aiken.
In other words, trade one today and you still have 7-10 top prospects from which to realize only 2-3 decent major league pitchers
Let me digress again. Think about the pitching depth — and the Top 20 — with Aiken, Nix and/or Marshall in the fold. Take just a moment. Drooling is allowed.
So, while a trade of one of the key rotation pieces seems almost preposterous or foolish, it may not be so outlandish, especially if the return adds a guaranteed, key piece to the future and not just a hope-against-hope prospect with a lot of upside and potential.
The Astros have enough of those.