The trade season moved up to a higher gear with the trades of SS Manny Machado and RP Brad Hand in the last few days. While Machado is more of a concern if there will be an Astros’ World Series rematch with his new team, the Dodgers, Hand was a name that has been linked with the Astros a number of times over the last year. But that does not mean there are not other folks that Jeff Luhnow and the front office may be interested in chasing as the trade deadline approaches.
In the interest of full disclosure – the folks below were gleaned from a listing of the 75 most likely trade candidates by MLB Traderumors.
For this piece we will concentrate on the two positions that the Astros would likely have the most interest – catcher and relief pitching:
- Wilson Ramos. The Rays catcher looked like a top candidate for a trade….until he suffered a hamstring injury, was put on the DL and will not return until after the non-Waiver (July 31) trade deadline. Even if he is healed by the waiver trade deadline (August 31) he is not likely to make it through waivers unclaimed and the Astros are at the very end of that line.
- J.T. Realmuto. A team interested in the 27-year-old Marlins catcher would owe him about $1 million for the rest of 2018 and then would “control” him through fairly pricey arbitration in 2019 and 2020. He has been a good catcher, who has stepped it up this season with a .310 BA/ .365 OBP/ .903 OPS slash 12 home runs and 45 RBIs and he is gunning down an impressive 43% of base stealers. If the Astros want him they may have to let go of a Kyle Tucker or a Forrest Whitley to get him in his prime.
- Devin Mesoraco. This Met backstop is a huge drop-off from Realmuto, but would cost a lot less to bring to the Astros. First, he is a rental as he turns into a free agent after the season. Second, he is still owed about $2-3 million by the Mets. Third, he was great for one season (2014) and has been mostly hurt or ineffective since then. This season he has put up a ho-hum slash of .225/.305/.693 with 8 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Astros would only be interested if the Mets sent money along or took a fringe prospect back and of course only if they think Brian McCann is not coming back.
- A.J. Ellis. He is a solid 37 y.o. veteran – with a good year hitting the ball (.284 BA /.392 OBP / .750 OPS) and little power – 1 HR in 109 ABs. He is also throwing out a good 31% of runners with the Padres. He would only make about $400 K the rest of the season and would be a rental as he turns back to FA. Would be a decent veteran backup to bring in for a low-end prospect.
- Jeurys Familia. The RHP was excellent for the Mets between 2014 and 2016 including 51 saves in 2016, but was used a ton (76,76 and 78 games). He then had an injury-riddled 2017 with poor results. He is back strong in 2018 (2.88 ERA and 17 saves). He would cost a little under $3 million for the rest of 2018 and would be a rental as he goes into free agency. Would probably cost a couple good but not top end prospects.
- Zach Britton. The LHP was superb for the Orioles between 2014 and 2016 (120 total saves and ERAs of 1.65, 1.92 and 0.54) He missed a big chunk of 2017 with injury and then blew out his Achilles tendon in the off-season. His results in the 15 games since his return have been so-so. However, he has been scoreless in the last 7 games and seems to be getting back to his norm of being a ground ball machine. He would be a rental and would cost about $4 million between now and the end of the season. The Orioles showed they were a bit more interested in quantity than quality in their trade of Manny Machado for five, not top prospects. Maybe the Astros could package some younger prospects with a AAAA guy or two.
- Joakim Soria. The White Sox RH closer has been very good this season with a 2.75 ERA and 14 saves. His 11.3 K/9 IP is his best since 2009 and his 2.3 BB / 9 IP is also very good. He is 34 y.o. and is owed approx.. $3 million for the balance of 2018. He could be picked up on a $10 million option for 2019 or bought out for $1 million. He probably again would cost a couple good but not great prospects and maybe some AAAA talent.
- Raisel Iglesias. Since moving from he rotation to the bullpen for the Reds, the RHP has been very good for the last 2-1/2 seasons. This year he has a 2.36 ERA and 19 saves for a team that is rebuilding. He is 28 y.o. and is signed for reasonable dollars. He would cost about $1.4 million for the rest of 2018 and then $5.7 million for both 2019 and 2020. With this controllability, the Astros would probably have to go a bit higher in what prospects they offer, perhaps someone from their Top 5 and a couple of others.
- Felipe Vazquez. The Lefty closer for the Pirates is a step down in 2018 from his breakout 2017 season. His ERA is a decent 3.05 with 23 saves. His K’s are up to 12.4 K/ 9 IP, but his walks and hits are up as his WHIP has gone from an excellent 0.889 to a passable 1.282. He is only owed $1 million for the rest of 2018, but he is controlled for the next 3 seasons at $4.5, 5.75 and 7.75 million. Past that the team could pick him up in 2022 and 2023 for $10 million each or buy him out at a low cost. With this much control, even with a little less performance – he is going to be costly in prospects.
- Pick a controllable RH reliever –Kirby Yates of the Padres, Nate Jones of the White Sox, Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins, Shane Greene of the Tigers, Mychal Givens of the Orioles, Keone Kela of the (spit!!) Rangers – They are all controllable through at least 2020 with Kela and Givens through 2021 mostly thru arbitration. They all have drawbacks. Yates is performing way above his career numbers plus he may be the reason the Padres gave up Brad Hand. Jones has a good ERA (2.55), but his walk rate at 5.1 BB/9 IP is scary. Greene has an elevated ERA (4.05) with 19 saves and good K and walk numbers, but his HR rate doubled this season. Givens has the worst ERA of the group (4.28) after a good 2017 with his hits and walks way up this season. Kela is maybe the most attractive of this group at 25 y.o. and arb eligible for 2019 thru 2021, but would the Rangers deal with the Astros. His ERA is decent (3.27) and he has 23 saves. None of these guys should cost the moon – but not all may be available.
- Other folks – Tyler Clippard, Seunghwan Oh, John Axford, Jake Petricka – all of the Blue Jays, Sergio Romo of the Rays, Brad Ziegler of the Marlins and Brad Brach of the Orioles, Jake Diekman of the Rangers, Jerry Blevins of the Mets and Luis Avilian of the White Sox. All of them could be a help to a bullpen, but none would seem to be the back-end bullpen help that the Astros likely need.
Of course, there could be some other choice out there or the front office might say their back of the bullpen help for the playoffs is named Charlie Morton or Lance McCullers Jr. or in a real stretch, Forrest Whitley.
So – what are your thoughts?
Should the Astros pursue a catcher? Reliever?
Should they try to fill the reliever spot from within?