In the last post, we compiled a list of the Top 10 Astros developed internally during their recent Renaissance.
It seemed only fair that the next post is a Top 10 list of recent acquisitions from outside the organization. But as I sorted through the possibilities, the list kept swelling from a Top 10 to a Top 15 to a Top 20. And even that did not cover everyone who came from the outside to help this team during their recent roll.
This list was even harder to rank. Does a short stay of big-time production outrank a more extended stay of more steady production? Well, you will see the results of that argument pretty quickly in the following:
- Justin Verlander – There was just no way to ignore this as the most impactful transaction of the last few seasons. Their last-second trade of prospects to Detroit lifted the whole Astro boat, psychologically, and physically on the way to the 2017 title. Verlander then continued his excellence through the next two seasons of Cy Young type production. Yes, he missed two seasons with the TJ surgery, but his re-signing in the off-season offset some of the negativity from the two lost seasons.
- Gerrit Cole – Cole came over in an off-season mega-trade with Pittsburgh before the 2018 season. He was coming off a bit of a down year but had shown flashes of greatness in the past. Cole was terrific for the Astros, and frankly, only JV had a comparable two seasons to Gerrit’s 2018 and 2019. He should have shared the 2019 Cy Young Award with Verlander.
- Yuli Gurriel – Many people (including one named Dan P) were wondering what the Astros were doing when they handed $47.5 MM to a soon-to-be 32-year-old who had never played in the American minor or major leagues. He has been all anyone could ask for as he made the majors quickly and switched over to 1st base, a position he had never played. He saved his most amazing season until he was 37 as he won a Gold Glove at this “foreign” position and the AL batting title.
- Ryan Pressly – Pressly came over in a deadline trade with the Twins for a couple youngsters in 2018. He had never been the main closer before in the majors, but after two seasons in the saddle, he has cemented his spot at the back of the bullpen. He was brilliant in the eighth-inning set-up role for the team until they decided to let Roberto Osuna walk.
- Charlie Morton – Morton was 47-72 in his career before signing with the Astros in the off-season before the 2017 season. But the Astros had seen “something” with him and his spin rate, and he was a vital member of the rotation in both 2017 and 2018, including becoming the first pitcher in history to win two Game 7’s in a single playoff. That bulldog relief effort to win the Astros first championship will never be forgotten, though fans often wish the team would have kept him….
- Michael Brantley – The signing of Brantley before the 2019 season and the re-signing before the 2021 season have allowed the team and the fans to witness one of the most professional hitters in the game. His .310 BA/ .367 OBP/ .841 OPS slash over his three seasons was only tainted by some injury time lost during the 2021 season.
- Zack Greinke – Greinke was most impactful after the multi-prospect trade from Arizona in 2019. He was very dependable the last two seasons, with an ERA above four until Covid, and a late-season injury in 2021 tamped down his playoff contributions. He was excellent down the stretch and had a terrific start in Game 7 of the World Series that turned around late.
- Collin McHugh – McHugh was the first, most visible disciple of the Brent Strom reclamation projects to hit it big. After very poor results with the Mets and Rockies, he was very good in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, pairing with a rising Dallas Keuchel to give the Astros a much needed 1-2 punch in the rotation. He fell off a bit in 2016 and missed most of 2017 with injury. He was nails out of the bullpen in 2018 but struggled in 2019 and did not play in the Covid 2020 season after becoming a free agent.
- Josh Reddick – Reddick was a part of the Astros’ infusion of veteran leadership before the 2017 run to the World Series. His combination of great fielding, solid bat and a bit of unique kookiness was a critical piece in that team. His hitting fell off over the next three seasons, and he moved to Arizona in 2021.
- Brad Peacock – Peacock, came over from Oakland with Chris Carter and Max Stassi in the Jed Lowrie trade back in 2013. He was bad in his major league stints in 2013 and 2014, hurt most of 2015 and pitched a bit better, mainly in the minors in 2016. He burst forth in the majors in 2017 during the World Series run with both solid fill-in starts and stints out of the bullpen. He pitched decently in 2018 and 2019 in a mix of starts and relief, missed most of 2020 with injury and moved on to Boston in 2021, where he looked like he might be done.
- Brian McCann – The Astros picked up the veteran McCann in a trade with the Yankees when they were pivoting to Gary Sanchez as their catcher before the 2017 season (perhaps a big mistake on their part). He was no longer the seven-time All-Star he had been with the Braves, but he did a great job leading the team and the pitching staff through two big runs in 2017 and 2018 as a canny veteran who had seen and done it all. He went back to Atlanta to finish up his career in 2019.
- Will Harris – Harris was picked up on waivers from the D’Backs after the 2014 season as a faltering journeyman reliever. After being sprinkled with some Strom pixie dust, he gave the Astros five pretty darned good seasons. He probably will be remembered for a couple failures in a critical playoff game against the Royals in 2015 and the seventh game of the World Series in 2019. Still, he gave the Astros plenty of plus outings before moving to Washington.
- Martin Maldonado – The light-hitting, high-end defensive catcher was traded to the Astros twice in two mid-season trades in consecutive years. They picked him up for Patrick Sandoval from the Angels in 2018 and again from the Cubs for Tony Kemp in 2019. They re-signed him for 2020 and have him signed through the 2023 season. He shared duties with Robinson Chirinos in 2018 but has been the featured catcher since. He really shined in holding the pitching staff together during the crazy 2020 season, with so many pitching prospects making debut bows in that season for the Astros.
- Marwin Gonzalez – Marwin came to the Astros after the Red Sox pulled him from the Cubs in the 2011 Rule 5 draft. He was of enormous value in the field as he had the flexibility and skill to play the infield, plus some left field. His bat was okay, except for the garbage can drumming season of 2017, where he had his career year. He moved on in free agency after the 2018 season and came back for a late-season cameo in 2021.
- Evan Gattis – The native Texan returned to his home state from Atlanta in a trade package centering around Mike Foltynewicz before the 2015 season. He gave the Astros a DH/catcher/occasional LF with power and not a ton of fielding prowess over the next 4 seasons. Still, he gave the fans plenty of thrills and had some huge hits in the run to the 2017 World Series title. He left the team as a free agent at 32 after the 2018 season but did not play again. I like to picture him somewhere at a favorite fishing hole, relaxing and chugging a beer.
- Roberto Osuna – The off-field stuff aside, Osuna gave the Astros 1-1/2 seasons of solid closing (that did not include a collapse against the Red Sox in the 2018 ALCS). He was traded to the Astros by the Blue Jays in a swap of troubled relievers for Ken Giles. Was this the lousy karma move that eventually led to the Astros being revealed and punished for things before Osuna was ever here?
- Ken Giles – Giles came to the Astros in a mega-trade with the Phillies before the 2016 season for a huge package of pitchers, including Mark Appel and Vince Velasquez. He struggled a bit in 2016 but finally settled in as the closer and was very good in 2017 until he totally melted down in the playoffs. An on the mound meltdown in 2018 with Strom led to his trade for Osuna to the Jays soon after.
- Jake Marisnick – He came from the Marlins along with Francis Martes and Colin Moran in mid-2014 for a package centered on Jarred Cosart. Over the next 4-1/2 seasons, JFSF (Jake from State Farm) gave the Astros sparkling defense and maddening offense out of the fourth outfield spot. His peak was his 16 homers in limited at bats in 2017, but he just never could show enough to grab a forever starter spot in the majors. He moved on in free agency after the 2019 season.
- Aledmys Diaz – He was traded to the Astros after the 2018 season from the Blue Jays for Trent Thornton. Diaz came in as the younger, cheaper, better hitting version of Marwin Gonzalez. He would be much higher on this list if he could only stay healthy. He’s hit 20 home runs and knocked in 91 RBIs in only 170 games with the Astros – just a little more than a season, but that was 170 games out of the 384 games the team played in the last three seasons.
- Wade Miley – Miley was signed as a free agent before the 2019 season, and he filled an essential role in the rotation, finishing the month of August at 13-4 with a 3.06 ERA. His ERA ballooned to 16+ in September, but by then, he had been supplanted by Greinke in the three spot in the rotation. After his one-year stay with the Astros, he moved on and was very good for the Reds in 2021.
Well, for better or for worse, there you have one person’s opinion on the top 20 acquisitions during this Renaissance era of Houston baseball. Other players considered included Pat Neshek, Luis Valbuena, Jake Odorizzi, Ryne Stanek, Luke Gregerson, Kendall Graveman, Hector Rondon and Joe Smith.
Like last time …..
- Do you agree with the twenty shown above?
- Who would you add or take off the list?
- Would you change the order of the twenty? How?