The Astros’ Top 10 trades of all time

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit raises what was a not very heartfelt toast to the “founder of the feast,” Ebenezer Scrooge. This is, of course, before Scrooge experiences the lessons of the three ghosts and “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew…”.

Around this blog, the founder of the feast is Chip Bailey, and he’s always been like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of Dicken’s tale, a good man. So when he makes a suggestion on a blog subject, it is automatic for use in the rotation.

Chip suggested reviewing the biggest trades in Astros history. He didn’t say deadline trades, and a few of his suggested big trades were off-season, so we will leave this list open to both kinds of trades.

  1. Jeff Bagwell 1990 trade from the Red Sox for reliever Larry Andersen. The Red Sox got what they wanted in this trade as Andersen came in as a rental and put up a 1.23 ERA in 15 appearances down the stretch for the Sox, who won their division. I imagine a few Astros’ fans wondered what the team was doing. Why did we need a third baseman when we had Ken Caminiti, and though Bags hit for a good average, he only knocked four homers in 136 games at AA? Well, one position change and a Hall of Fame career (.297 BA/ .408 OBP/ .948 OPS/ 449 HRs/ 1529 RBIs) later, Bagwell proved to be the quintessential steal.
  2. Maybe this should be 1a. since it led directly to the Astros World Series championship in 2017, but the Justin Verlander trade from the Tigers for minor leaguers P Franklin Perez (injuries have kept him from pitching higher than the A+ league), OF Daz Cameron (who has a .204 BA with 5 HRs and 24 RBIs in 216 MLB at bats) and C Jake Rogers (who has finally grabbed a backup catcher spot on the Tigers this season). Even with missing 2 seasons due to TJ surgery, Verlander has been brilliant in solidifying his Hall of Fame credentials with a 56-18 WL, 2.34 ERA, one no-hitter, one Cy Young award, one runner-up, and a legitimate run this year at another. Chip wrote to me that these first two trades have to be in contention for the biggest steals in major league history, not just for the Astros.
  3. Yordan Alvarez obtained from the Dodgers in August 2016 for reliever Josh Fields. Many wags will tell you this trade helped the Astros twice as Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa launched two huge home runs in the tenth inning of the 2017 World Series Game 2 classic against Fields. Fields pitched pretty well in his three seasons with L.A., going 8-2, with a 2.61 ERA and 4 saves.  But Alvarez, even with missing the 2020 season with knee surgery, threatens to be an all-time great. His production to date works out to a 162-game average of 111 runs/ 46 HRs/ 130 RBIs along with a slash of .295 BA/ .382 OBP/ .983 OPS. This is one the Dodgers would walk back in a heartbeat. Note – Alvarez was traded before he ever played a game in the Dodgers’ system.
  4. Whether you believe he threw a great splitter or scuffer, the December 1982 trade of Utility man Danny Heep to the Mets for pitcher Mike Scott remains a very significant trade in the team’s history. Heep was solid but unspectacular in four seasons with the Mets (.263 BA/ 21 HRs/ 108 RBIs). Scott had scuffled (no pun intended) for the Mets in his early career and needed a change in scenery and the addition of a big pitch. He put in 9 strong seasons with the Astros, but will always be best known for his 1986 year when he won the Cy Young award, clinched the pennant with a no-hitter, and his total shutdown of his old team, the Mets, in the playoffs where he gave up 1 run in 18 innings against them. The 7th game was going to be Scott leading the Astros to their first World Series, but it never happened, as Bill Buckner could testify.
  5. The November 1997 trade of P Manuel Barrios (Pitched in two games for Florida before being traded to the Dodgers), P Oscar Henriquez (Pitched in 15 games before being traded to the Mets), and P Mark Johnson (Traded to the Yankees before he could make the majors) for Moises Alou from the Marlins remains a bit of an under the radar trade. Perhaps it was the mysterious treadmill injury that wiped out his 1999 season or the fact he urinated on his hands to toughen them up during baseball season. Still, his great numbers for the Astros are often forgotten. In three seasons with the team, he slashed .331 BA/ .403 OBP/ .988 OPS with 95 HRs and 346 RBIs. This included one season in the Dome and two seasons in Ten Run Field. He left in free agency to the Cubs and some infamy in the Bartman debacle.
  6. Gerrit Cole came to the Astros in a January 2018 trade with the Pirates for P Michael Feliz (5.00 ERA in 115 games with the Pirates), INF Colin Moran (Solid, unspectacular four seasons with Pittsburgh), P Joe Musgrove (Middle of the road starter for Pirates before being sent to Padres and becoming an All Star) and OF Jason Martin (44 ABs with the Pirates before being released). Cole was a spectacular 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA in two seasons with the Astros. He was in the top 5 for the Cy Young in 2018 and probably should have tied for the award in 2019. Astro fans will always wonder what would have happened if he had been brought in from the bullpen to protect their Game 7 World Series lead against the Nationals.
  7. As the following two trades show, teams did not always have to send players to the other team to obtain a player of worth. In October 1974, the Astros sent $25,000 straight up for Jose Cruz from the Cardinals. He had struggled for consistent playing time with the Cards, and his numbers were not very impressive in his 5 seasons with them. Jose Cruuuuuuuzzz became an icon with the team – putting up a .292 BA and 942 RBIs over the next 13 seasons of great play. He followed that up with stints as an Astros coach and working in the front office. There is no word on how many hits the $25,000 produced for the Cards.
  8. At the beginning of the 1975 season, the Astros sent $35,000 to the Braves for Pitcher Joe Niekro. Chip had recalled this as being $35,000 and asked me to check it, and he was right on the mark. At this point, the 30-year-old Knucksie had been primarily working out of the bullpen for several seasons with mixed results. He spent the next 3 seasons with the Astros as an effective bullpen option and a spot starter. Finally, at 33 years old, he moved back to being a full-time starter and was one of the Astros top pitchers until being traded away in 1985 to the Yankees (for Jim Deshaies). He appears on many Astro career leader lists and is still the Astros leader of all time with 144 wins.
  9. In December 1993, the Astros sent OF Eric Anthony, a guy who never quite met his potential, to Seattle for young pitcher Mike Hampton and OF Mike Felder. Felder played one season with the Astros and fell out of the majors; Anthony played one season with the M’s and then bounced around baseball for a few more. But Hampton, after a poor rookie season with the Mariners, became an Astro star on the mound (and at times at the bat). He was 76-50 with a 3.58 ERA with the Astros culminating in his 22-4 season in 1999 and a runner-up for the Cy Young. At that point, the Astros under Drayton McLane decided they did not want to pony up what Hampton would want in another year and traded him to the Mets. He pitched well there, signed a giant boat anchor of a contract with the Rockies, and fell into a morass of bad pitching and injuries. He returned to the Astros for one mediocre season at the end of his career.
  10. The Astros traded Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia, and John Halama to the Mariners for a two-month rental of Randy Johnson in July 1998. And even though the M’s got the better of this trade with the contributions of Guillen and especially Garcia, this would have ranked much higher if it had brought the Astros the World Series appearance they were thirsting for. The Big Unit was brilliant with the Astros down the stretch as they set a club record for wins, but the bats went dead in the playoffs against the Padres, and Johnson moved on to Arizona after the season.

Other trades could have made the Top 10. The Carlos Beltran rental probably belongs here, but I didn’t have the stomach to add it. The Glenn Davis trade for Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling, and Steve Finley certainly would have made it if those guys had put up the numbers for the Astros that they did for other teams when they left. An aging Don Sutton for Kevin Bass and Frank DiPino was good for the Astros. The trade for Brian McCann was critical in the Astros’ championship run.

And we could run another column or two on the trades that sent Joe Morgan, John Mayberry, Curt Schilling, Kenny Lofton, Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Rusty Staub, Mike Cuellar, and Billy Wagner away.

Questions for you:

  • What are your top 10 Astro trades?
  • What would you add? What would you take off the list? 
  • Do you think you will look back at this trade deadline and say – oh yeah – there is another one to add to the list?

40 comments on “The Astros’ Top 10 trades of all time

  1. I would switch 3 and 4 because I think Mike Scott gave the Astros more than Alvarez has, so far. In a year or two I believe this will no longer be the case.

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  2. The Space Cowboys starter is TBD tonight. Hunter Brown has only thrown 8.2 innings in July, 5.0 on the 6th and 3.2 on the 22nd. Seems they are working to keep his innings count down. Wonder if that’s all there is to it?

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    • I imagine a strikeout pitcher that throws a lot of pitches out of the zone as well is probably routinely hitting 90-95 pitches before 5 innings in todays game.

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  3. It’s an interesting topic and list. If certain events had not transpired I think the 1981 trade of Ken Forsch for Dickie Thon would have been in there. I consider the Beltran and Randy Johnson trades to have had equivalent results for the Astros, but certainly the A’s/Royals don’t feel they got as sweet a return as the Mariners did. One note, that’s not Dan’s fault as it’s automated, but the link for Jose Cruz takes you to the baseball reference page for his son, Jr. If you want the correct Jose Cruz just change 02 to 01 in the URL.

    Perhaps a topic for a rainy day in the offseason might be the trades that should have worked out better than they did for the Astros. I can think of a bunch where I expected a big improvement and the acquisition(s) didn’t ever live up to it.

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    • Boy, Thon was just approaching greatness. As a contemporary, I loved watching the guy become an excellent baseball player. In 1983, before we had ever heard of WAR, he put up a 5.3 oWAR and a 3.2 dWAR. And then 5 games into the 1984 season he was never the same again.

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  4. Some trade comments:
    * The Mariners gave up a lot for Castillo. But, I think it is a good gamble because they are done with the Astros after this weekend, and because they will only face us 14 times next year. They are gambling that Castillo facing other teams more and us less will help them get that playoff spot.
    * It my own thinking, but I have had this idea that the Astros will wait until close to the deadline to make moves, that other clubs may not have time to counter. Probably wrong, but that is par for my course
    * Would they try to pick up someone on the cheap who has been released by another club who needs room on their roster?
    * LMJ will make another start for Sugarland on Tuesday. Hoping he could go at least 4 innings or 70 pitches. After looking at his last box score, he pitched pretty well and was still rusty with a hit batter being important in the inning he gave up 2 runs.
    * Have always thought that Brantley’s injury would be the main reason for a deadline trade. Having that third dependable LH bat in the lineup seems to make a big difference.

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  5. – I wonder if anyone else was even close to offering what the M’s offered
    – The M’s have a deep farm to pull from and they have quite a young team blocking spots I think the front office wanted to raise the morale of the whole team – like when the Astros started playing better even before Verlander pitched his first game
    – With looking at the Castillo trade as an example of the prospect loot for a player with one year of control will the Astros be eating at the kid’s table of 2 month rentals?
    – Man the lineup sure works better when Bregman is squaring em up
    – And maybe Dusty’s move of Yuli into the 2nd spot will prove to be brilliant
    – Pay attention to this season from Verlander- you may never see this kind of dominance from a pitcher his age again – much less one coming off TJ surgery

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  6. Is our community quietly and anxiously awaiting James Click to do something with our Astros? Not even a peep from our most opinionated maybe cynical members over the last couple of days! I think it’s a big day for Jake Odorizzi. Does he help us to a 3-1 series win and pick up his club, or does he help the M’s to a split they’d be very happy with?

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    • I don’t know about anyone else, Dave, but I’ve been taking a page out of your book- hanging out on the beach, getting mellow. Been in Panama City, FL for a vacay trying not to die of sunburn. Are the Astros still playing?

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  7. Our starter and closer most impacted this game. Too bad we couldn’t skip the first and ninth innings. And twice, Yuli of all guys, might not have made the best defensive decision.

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  8. Thoughts
    – Yeah daveb the starter and the closer affected the game the most last night, but at least Framber shut them down after the first and allowed his teammates to catch up and take the lead.
    – Can’t get on Pressly too bad for giving up a couple runs after such a spotless run he was on. I can get on him for the *&^%ing leadoff walk. I’d rather see a leadoff home run sometimes (yeah I know that is ridiculous – but I feel that way today)
    – The one positive – I did not watch the game and erased it when I got home. Spent a quiet Saturday with my family and my mom in Tomball – went and adjusted her tire pressure, played Scrabble, talked about “stuff”, and brought in Goodson’s for dinner.
    – Hope you are having a great time Mr. Bill. I spent a summer in Panama City (the non-beach side – which was a bit of a hole) in 1994 rebuilding a pulp mill that had blown up. We would work 5 in the morning to 5 at night 6 days one week and 5 days the next (when we could fly home). That was the summer I started drinking coffee – because having to get up so early was tough. On the Sunday when I was off – I would often drive up to Destin and lay around the beach there. Be careful – really strong rip tides in the area – it seemed like someone was drowning every day when I was there.
    – Then there is this….
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2022/07/cardinals-interested-in-jake-odorizzi.html
    Is this the ultimate punishment for the Cardinals hacking into our computer system?
    – Supposedly the Brewers, Padres and Rays are all interested in Joey Gallo. Yes, I know the trade would have minimal return for the Yanks and they would have to send a boat load of cash along – but say what?
    – Because we hit J-Rod (Julio Rodriguez) in the 8th inning, and apparently he was hurting a bit, the M’s pinch hit Toro for him in the 9th and he had the hit that beat us.
    – Why do I feel like the Astros will again make a trade or two between now and the deadline that we did not see coming? I’d have to go back there and look, but last season the Astros were interested in trading for relief help, but I don’t remember Graveman, Montero, Yimi Garcia, or Maton being on any pre-trade list being leaked out.

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    • If the Astros could get something of similar value for Odorizzi, even a minor league prospect I’d do that deal in a (pardon the pun) New York minute.

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  9. Gosh, that Cards deal sounds like a pipedream, but you never know. I have to admit, I keep hoping for late word Jake has been scratched today, if only to pick up a piece that helps us get a bigger deal done. As 1OP has reminded, we’re usually dealing at the deadline, so we could be waiting until Tuesday afternoon before anything or nothing happens . The mention of Goodson’s has me thinking Chicken Fried Steak.

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  10. The Seattle lineup looks a lot like the Oakland lineup did this past week and that is a scary thought. The Astros always seem to play down to their competition. Especially with Odor Lite on the mound for us.

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  11. On other sports news – the guy who may well have been the true basketball GOAT 11 time NBA champ Bill Russell died at 88
    He won two more NBA championships as a coach and two NCAA championships at U of San Francisco which has not exactly been a basketball bastion

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  12. Good win after giving up the lead late. Odorizzi pitched great. Neris did a nice job to stone them in the tenth. Yordan showed again that he’s not just a slugger – taking what they gave him and hitting the ball the other way to walk it off

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    • Yeah – I was texting with my brother about that Simon – I said the same thing – even with a left hander pitching I would have walked him. And then with the shift on – he just picked an open spot and slapped it through there.

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  13. There are rumblings that with the Red Sox possible becoming sellers with their recent fall in the standings – the Astros have interest in catcher Christian Vazquez- he’s a two month rental and would cost them a little more than $2 million in salary down the line. He is a good D and a good O catcher – he is slashing .282 BA/ .327 OBP/.758 OPS with 8 homers and 42 RBIs.

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  14. Still waiting for 19th round pick, John Garcia II to sign with the Astros. By my calculations, they have very little money left to sign him within the 5% overage penalty stage of their draft allotment.

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    • The only thing I can think of is that Choi is arb eligible this offseason and the Rays may be willing to move him before needing to pay him. Having said that, they just traded for Peralta so making moves that lessen their chances of making the postseason wouldn’t add up. From the Astros POV, this deal makes absolutely no sense. We would take on a small amount of salary in order to get a marginal upgrade on Yuri against RHP? They can’t afford a roster spot for 2 players who only play 1B. Also, apologies to the players involved, but we would have beat the Braves last October if we could have hit their LHP….which is a problem Choi doesn’t solve.

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      • Have to agree with you Devin – not seeing why this would be the move if Yuli is staying here. Now if they were trading Yuli away and having Choi platoon with like Diaz, maybe I could see it.

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  15. As of August 1, 2022:
    Won/Loss
    1. Dodgers 68-33
    2. Yankees 69-34
    3. Astros 67-36
    4. Mets 64-37
    Payrolls
    1. Dodgers $261 mil
    2. Mets 260 mil
    3. Yankees $253 mil
    10. Astros $175 mil

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  16. How important was winning 6 of 7 from the Mariners?
    If the M’s had won 6 of 7 from the Astros instead, the 12 game lead in the division would be a 2 game lead. If the M’s had swept all 7 they would be tied.

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  17. Yordan is probably the best hitter in baseball. He is a very capable shift beater. I still believe that the game should evolve naturally. If hitters find an open hole on a regular basis, the shift goes away. I’m especially pleased to see the Astros doing this more and more lately. Even guys like Altuve. It’s beautiful and terribly frustrating for the other guys. Then we throw in that new discovery called a bunt. Our team is getting better at playing the whole game.

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