Tag Archives: Houston Astros

Season Preview – NL Central

Time to look at the 6 team NL Central division. You can also take a look at my previews of the AL East, AL Central, AL West, and NL East.

Last Year’s Records
Cincinnati – 91-71
St. Louis – 86-76
Milwaukee – 77-85
Houston – 76-86
Chicago – 75-87
Pittsburgh – 57-105

Notable Additions

Chicago – Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Kerry Wood

Cincinnati – Edgar Renteria

Houston – Clint Barmes

Milwaukee – Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yuniesky Betancourt, Takashi Saito, Mark Kotsay

Pittsburgh – Lyle Overbay, Garrett Atkins, Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel

St. Louis – Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman

Notable Losses

Chicago – Sam Fuld, Tom Gorzelanny

Cincinnati – Arthur Rhodes, Orlando Cabrera, Aaron Harang

Houston – Matt Lindstrom, Felipe Paulino

Milwaukee – Brett Lawrie, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Gregg Zaun

Pittsburgh –  Zack Duke, Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge

St. Louis – Brendan Ryan, Pedro Feliz, Brad Penny, Jeff Suppan

My Thoughts

Chicago – The Cubs had a very disappointing season last year, and went out and tried to plug some of those holes this offseason. Bringing in Carlos Pena on a 1 year contract, despite its cost, looks like a very nice signing for a power bat. The acquisition of Matt Garza brings a young, cost-controlled high-end starting pitcher to their rotation, but at the cost of top prospects Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, and others.  I am not sold that this team will compete this year, as they will need bounceback performances from Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano to really end up in the thick of the race.

Cincinnati – The defending NL Central champions, the team has lost Aaron Harang and will hope that the combination of Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and others will be able to pitch complete seasons this year. The team returns nearly every player from last season’s title, but I don’t think that it is a slam-dunk that they will just run away with the division again this year.

Houston – Talk about a rebuilding effort. Here’s a team which has very few high-end prospects in the system right now, who also does not have a lot of higher-quality players at the Major League level either. There are some quality players in Hunter Pence and Brett Myers, but there’s not a lot of hope for the 2011 season. They will look to get a solid rookie season out of last year’s acquisition, Brett Wallace, but you have essentially gathered a group of mid-level players who can fill out a roster, but are unlikely to compete as a group for a division title, let alone a league championship

Milwaukee – And within the same division, you have a team who has gone all-in for 2011. The Brewers have traded nearly all of their top prospects in order to improve their pitching staff, and did so with the acquisitions of Marcum and Greinke. It’s not a great sign that Greinke is hurt already, but he should return in mid April and only miss a few starts. The bigger story throughout the season will be whether or not they fall out of contention and attempt to trade Prince Fielder before the deadline. They definitely remain a team to be reckoned with in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh – For a team that lost 105 games last year, they actually have a lot to look forward to. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is poised to become one of the best young players in the Majors, and 2nd year players Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez both will look to build on their solid rookie years. They aren’t likely to compete this season, but there’s hope for Pirates fans that is starting to show itself at the Major League level.

St. Louis – The biggest story out of St. Louis up until the start of Spring Training was whether or not Albert Pujols would sign a contract extension prior to the start of the season, and unfortunately it’s no longer the current top story out of their camp. With Cy Young runner up Adam Wainwright out for the season with Tommy John surgery, they will now look to replace at least some part of his production in the starting rotation. I’m not sold that this team, as constructed, can compete for the division title. They will need everything else to fall just right for them to win this division.

Overall Thoughts

The NL Central really has the look of a wide open division. If things fall just right, 4 of the teams could conceivably win the division this season. That said, I’m not sold that things will fall right for all of them, but it should be intersting to watch regardless.  Here’s my predicted order of finish:

1. Milwaukee
2. Cincinnati
3. St. Louis
4. Chicago
5. Pittsburgh
6. Houston

Who are the Faces of the Franchise? NL Central Edition

Only two divisions left to look at for the Faces of the Franchise, but there’s some definite notable ones here .

  • Cubs – At the moment, the player who is most known for being a Cub has to be Carlos Zambrano. Whether or not that is a good thing or not remains to be seen, but the team seems like it is more associated with him than some of the more famous position players like Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. Continue reading

Michael Young’s Trade Request

According to MLBTR, Michael Young has requested a trade, and will only accept a trade to 8 teams. From T.R. Sullivan, those teams are: Cardinals, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Rockies, Dodgers, Angels, Padres. Realistically, what of those are the best fit?

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Young is currently under contract for 3 more seasons for a total of $48 million. Realistically, unless the Rangers eat a major portion of the contract, the Twins, Padres, and Astros seem like poor fits. But what about the rest of the teams?

Continue reading

Prospect Review – Jay Austin

The next prospect up for review is Jay Austin of the Houston Astros.

The Basics
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
How Acquired: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Age as of 4/1/11: 20

Scouting Reports and Statistics

The Baseball Cube

Tm            Lg Lev   G  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG
Lancaster   CALL  A+ 131 83 139 25 13 10  59 54 20 39 126 .261 .314 .414

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/3/2011.
Prospect Ranks
Hardball Times: #10 (HOU – 2011)
John Sickels: #15 (HOU – 2011) C


The Astros’ minor league system is really pretty thin at this point. Jordan Lyles was pretty much the consensus #1 prospect on nearly every ranking I read, but I wrote about him last year. Delino DeShields Jr was at #2 on many of the lists, but as a high school draftee I didn’t really want to write about him. A prospect who jumped out at me when I started doing my research was Jay Austin, although I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember why.

Austin spent his 3rd professional season in Lancaster in the California League, where he posted what at first seemed like some excellent numbers. He had 48 extra base hits and 54 stolen bases, both of which jump out at me. However, once I started looking into Austin a bit more, I’m not liking what I have found.

The most glaring problem that stands out to me is his plate discipline. Austin has never really shown a particularly good ability to take a walk, and his numbers really fell off in 2010. He has drawn a total of 89 walks in 287 games, and has struck out 274 times, including a ridiculous 126 times in 2010. These numbers might actually be reasonable if Austin were a power hitter, and you were going to get 30-40 home run potential to go with it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Austin hit 10 home runs last year, and with half of his games at Lancaster, his numbers should be better. The park factor for Lancaster home runs last year was 1.39, and 1.22 as a weighted 3-year average. Basically, the park is good for about 20% more home runs than the league average. While this number would balance out over the span of the season, I’m not sold his home run total will improve much, or necessarily even hold. This is especially damning to me when I look at his 2009 homeruns (1), and the park factors for his home stadium of Lexington (1.13 for both numbers). Now, he can definitely be developing power, but his skill set doesn’t really profile as that being very likely.

Austin’s calling card is definitely his speed, as he stole 54 bases last year in 74 attempts. Here’s what David Coleman over at Crawfish Boxes had to say about him last year:

More and more, Austin profiles very similarly to Michael Bourn. While Bourn walked more at the lower levels of the minor leagues, Austin has more power. Bourn has him beat in stolen base percentage, but Austin is younger than Bourn was at this level. Bourn skipped High A ball completely, advancing to Double-A in his Age 22 season but suffered through his worst minor league campaign that year. Austin is young and in an advanced league, yet has shown no real dips in his averages from past seasons.



Based on the things I’ve been reading, Austin seems like he still has some potential, but he’s definitely going to have his work cut out for him. He will be 20 years old this season, and needs to make significant strides in terms of plate discipline to continue his advancement.

Prediction for 2011

.260/.300/.390, 7 HR, 45 SB (AA)

Expected ETA

Based on his progress, I think we could see Austin in the Majors by 2013. This seems like a big leap of faith at the moment though, as he will need to continue to perform and improve on his skill set while doing so. I’m not sold he’s going to make it at all though.

Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Jeff Bagwell

The next candidate for the Hall of Fame I will be taking a look at is a first year candidate, Jeff Bagwell.

Baseball-Reference.com Profile

Career Accomplishments
1994 National League MVP
1991 National League Rookie of the Year
449 Home runs
4 All Star Appearances
3 Silver Sluggers
.297/.408/.540 career slash line
OPS+ of 149
8 100+ RBI seasons
9 100+ runs seasons
6 seasons of .300+ batting average
9 30+ HR seasons (8 in a row from 1996-2003)

The Case for Bagwell

Bagwell was an elite level hitter who provided top level power production. He had 10 straight season of 5 or great wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference (1994-2003). He had 8 straight seasons of 30+ home runs (1996-2003) and 9 overall. He had 10 seasons of 100+ runs batted in, including 6 straight (1996-2001). He also had 8 straight seasons with double digit stolen bases, including 2 40 home run/30 stolen base seasons (1997, 1999).

The Case Against Bagwell

The majority of Bagwell’s career was played during the steroid era, and it remains to be seen whether or not home run totals were inflated overall during that time. His career ended rather quickly, going from a solid defender to being unable to make the throw from first base to second base. A lot of his career total numbers (2314 hits, 449 home runs, 1529 runs batted in) don’t necessarily lead one to believe his career was long enough.


Bagwell really seems like a case of a player who has clearly had a very good career. But the question here is whether or not he has had a Hall of Fame career. Looking at the numbers, he was clearly an elite level offensive talent for between 8 and 10 seasons (1994-2003). The numbers that continue to stand out to me for Bagwell were obviously the home runs (449 career), but also the number of runs he scored overall (1517), which was good for 62nd all time. He also led the National League in runs scored 3 times, and finished 37th on the all time list for Adjusted OPS+. While all players who played during the steroid era are taken with a grain (or 15) of salt, I don’t recall there being any specific allegations with regard to Bagwell. Even still, for me, I have to view Bagwell as clearly one of the top players in his era, and any for that matter.


Season Preview in Review – National League Central

Back during Spring Training, I took a look at each team and made predictions about how each team would do and how I thought their season would go. This was the first year doing this, and I figured now was a good time to take a look back and see how it went. I previously looked at each of the divisions in the American League and the NL East, and I move now to the NL Central.

Chicago Cubs

Predicted Record: 87-75
Actual Record: 75-87

I had thought that the Cubs would find a way to put it together this season, and find a way to win what definitely appeared to be a weak division. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and the team really spun out of control throughout the season. The bright spots for the team really seemed to be the emergence of rookie shortstop Starlin Castro and the performance that manager Mike Quade was able to coax out of the team. Hopefully they will be able to make a quick recovery in 2011. Continue reading

Trade Deadline Review

Well, we are now officially one day past the non-waiver trade deadline, and there have been quite a few different trades made. It was definitely one of the more active periods in a lot of years. I wrote up the major trades as they happened, and you can read my thoughts with the links below.

Major Trades

Texas Rangers acquire SP Cliff Lee and P Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners for 1B Justin Smoak and 3 minor leaguers
Los Angeles Angels acquire SP Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks for SP Joe Saunders and 3 minor leaguers
Philadelphia Phillies acquire SP
Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros for SP J.A. Happ and 2 minor leaguers

Semi-Major Deals

1. New York Yankees acquire RP Kerry Wood from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later or cash
2. New York Yankees acquire 1B Lance Berkman from the Houston Astros for P Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes
3. Los Angeles Dodgers acquire SP Ted Lilly and IF Ryan Theriot from the Chicago Cubs for IF Blake DeWitt, minor league P Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit
4. St. Louis Cardinals acquire SP Jake Westbrook from the Cleveland Indians and minor leaguer Nick Greenwood from the San Diego Padres, San Diego Padres acquire OF Ryan Ludwick from the St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians acquire minor leaguer Corey Kluber from the San Diego Padres
5. Pittsburgh Pirates acquire C Chris Snyder and OF Pedro Ciriaco from the Arizona Diamondbacks for P D.J. Carrasco, IF Bobby Crosby, and OF Ryan Church
6. Chicago White Sox acquire SP Edwin Jackson from the Arizona Diamondbacks for SP Daniel Hudson and P David Holmberg
7. Minnesota Twins acquire RP Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals for C Wilson Ramos and minor league P Joe Testa
8. Texas Rangers acquire IF Jorge Cantu from the Florida Marlins for minor leaguer pitchers Evan Reed and Omar Poveda
9. Los Angeles Dodgers acquire OF Scott Podsednik from the Kansas City Royals for minor leaguers C Lucas May and P Elisaul Pimentel
10. Los Angeles Angels acquire 3B Alberto Callaspo from the Kansas City Royals for P Sean O’Sullivan and P Will Smith
11. Toronto Blue Jays acquire SS Yunel Escobar and P Jo-Jo Reyes from the Atlanta Braves for SS Alex Gonzalez and minor leaguers Tyler Pastornicky and Tim Collins
12. Los Angeles Dodgers acquire RP Octavio Dotel from the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Andrew Lambo and P James McDonald

Minor Moves

1. Texas Rangers acquire IF Cristian Guzman from the Washington Nationals for minor leaguers Ryan Tatsuko and Tanner Roark
2. Texas Rangers acquire C Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants for P Chris Ray
3. Toronto Blue Jays acquire 1B Mike Jacobs from the New York Mets for a player to be named later
4. San Diego Padres acquire IF Miguel Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles for minor league P Wynn Pelzer
5. Tampa Bay Rays acquire RP Chad Qualls from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later
6. New York Yankees acquire OF Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians for ?
7. Detroit Tigers acquire IF Jhonny Peralta from the Cleveland Indians for minor league P Giovanny Soto
8. San Francisco Giants acquire P Javier Lopez from the Pittsburgh Pirates for P Joe Martinez and OF John Bowker
9. Atlanta Braves acquire IF Wilkin Ramirez from the Detroit Tigers for cash or a player to be named later
10. Florida Marlins acquire RP Will Ohman from the Baltimore Orioles for P Rick VandenHurk
11. San Francisco Giants acquire RP Ramon Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox for P Daniel Turpen
12. Atlanta Braves acquire OF Rick Ankiel and RP Kyle Farnsworth from the Kansas City Royals for P Jesse Chavez, OF Gregor Blanco, and minor league P Tim Collins
13. Boston Red Sox acquire C Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Texas Rangers for 1B Chris McGuiness, P Ramon Mendez and a player to be named later or cash

Wow. There’s still stuff coming in as I write this, and in the last hour there have been a lot of these to get done. So who did well here and who didn’t?


The Yankees – Let’s see if we have this right. The Yankees picked up Lance Berkman to be their designated hitter. They added Kerry Wood to help solidify the back end of the bullpen behind Mariano Rivera. And they got both of them for a pair of players that are of no use to the Yankees, and even got some money in the deals? Really? They already have the best record in the Majors, and have decidedly improved their team with both acquisitions. Oh, and they added to their bench depth with Austin Kearns as well.

The Rangers – With a decent lead in the AL West, the Rangers went out and got themselves an ace starter (Lee), a solid catcher who can help them play defense at the position (Molina), a run producing right handed bat who can play two positions (Cantu), a backup infielder who will be able to spell their third baseman and shortstop, and fill in while their second baseman is on the disabled list (Guzman),  and moved a player that they had soured on for some prospects. They are the prohibitive favorite in the AL West at this point, now being 8 games ahead of the 2nd place Angels and 8.5 of the 3rd place Athletics. They plugged nearly every gap they had in their team, and will go into the pennant chase with a very good chance of being in the World Series at the end of it.

The Angels – Even though the moves may end up being more for next season, acquiring Dan Haren to give them a very good 1-2 punch in their rotation for “some magic beans” as Matthew Berry put it on the Fantasy Focus podcast was a stroke of genius. Callaspo also gives them a solid hitter to play at 3B which they had sorely been missing. While it may not be enough to catch the Rangers, they gave up very little of value to do both trades.

The Pirates – They took D.J. Carrasco, Bobby Crosby, Javier Lopez, Octavio Dotel, and Ryan Church and turned them into a major league backstop (Snyder), two solid potential major leaguers (Bowker and Martinez), and 2 higher end, albeit risky prospects (Lambo, McDonald). Someone must have put something in Neal Huntington’s coffee that helped out a lot. They did extremely well to turn a lot of random pieces that aren’t really that helpful into all that.

The Royals – Pieces that aren’t for the future: Podsednik, Ankiel, Farnsworth, Callaspo. All moved for players with varying levels of upside who can help with the rebuilding process: Lucas May, Tim Collins, Jesse Chavez, Gregor Blanco, Sean O’Sullivan, Will Smith. Not the most amazing group of players, and definitely no high-end prospects here. But the Royals have a lot of high-end prospects already, and need others to help give them some balance as well with regard to position scarcity and depth overall. Very well done today.

The Padres – They gave up a pair of pitching prospects to acquire a much needed outfield bat, and a utility player who should provide some value over the remainder of the season. Nothing too major here, and definitely nothing that mortgages the future. I like the Ludwick acquisition, as he could see an improvement with a change of scenery. I’m not 100% sold on the Tejada acquisition, but they didn’t really give up that much to get him in my opinion.


The Nationals – The trade of Matt Capps was nice, netting them a very good catching prospect in Wilson Ramos. But the way that they handled Adam Dunn leading up to the trade deadline was inexcusable. They clearly had not made up their mind as to what they wanted to do with him, and in the end they simply ran out of time. They clearly could have gotten more for him had they moved him instead of waiting for his free agency to play out, and the only reason to do that would have been to get him signed to an extension (which they didn’t do either). Not sure what happened here, but we’ll see if this was a really bad plan from the start.

The Dodgers – In a division where they are 7.5 games back of the leader and 5 games back of the wild card leader, the Dodgers decided to go for it, sending prospects Brett Wallach, Kyle Smit, Lucas May, Elisaul PimentelAndrew Lambo, and James McDonald (along with Blake DeWitt) to other teams to acquire: the remainder of this season from Octavio Dotel, Ted Lilly and Scott Podsednik, and also Ryan Theriot. I’m pretty sure that if they had offered those players to the Diamondbacks they would have been able to get Dan Haren, Kelly Johnson, and a bullpen arm. I’m also pretty convinced that they could have offered that group to the Mariners and gotten Cliff Lee, Jose Lopez and possibly David Aardsma. I’m not at all impressed with what they did here, and are only one bad week from being completely out of the race.

The Orioles – It’s a tough beat, but they were only able to move Will Ohman and Miguel Tejada, and would have been served by moving Ty Wigginton and Kevin Millwood, among others. Unfortunately, neither player has been playing well of late, and had essentially managed to knock their own values down to next to nothing.

The Twins – They needed some help in the bullpen, and really could have used another starting pitcher behind Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. Unfortunately, they only filled one of those gaps, and at a cost that seems high even considering that the prospect that they gave up had no place to play in the Twins’ future.

Mixed Bag

The Astros – They were able to get out from under a lot of the big dollar contracts owed to Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, and got back at least a reasonable return. Brett Wallace will slot in at 1B to replace Berkman, and J.A. Happ will fill Oswalt’s slot in the rotation. But time will tell if they get anything other than salary relief for Berkman, and Happ and Wallace will have to be very good to replace the value of Oswalt in my opinion.

The Phillies – They gave up a lot more to get Oswalt than they got back in return for Cliff Lee, who would have played a similar role for the Phillies this season had he not been traded. Oswalt will need to be the piece that moves them over the top for this one to really be a winner for them.

The Diamondbacks – They acquired a pretty good young pitcher in return for Edwin Jackson (Hudson). But they practically gave away Dan Haren, a better pitcher who was not that much more expensive than Jackson. They got back a bunch of garbage essentially for their second catcher Snyder. Crosby is a free agent after the season, and Church and Carrasco are both likely candidates for a non-tender after the season. They also did not move Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche, both of whom had a lot of value built up despite poor performance of late. Some of the players they acquired could turn out to be good, but it remains to be seen.

The White Sox – They really could have used a bat, and it sounds like they were trying to get one by acquiring Edwin Jackson. I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard about a player being acquired with the hope of moving him to another team, only to have that other team tell them it wasn’t enough. Jackson is a nice pitcher, but is not that much better than Hudson should be.

Overall, a very exciting trade deadline, and there is still the possibility that we will see a lot more trades before the waiver deadline of August 31st.

Trade Review – Roy Oswalt to the Phillies

The saga has finally wound itself up, with SP Roy Oswalt accepting a trade on Thursday afternoon and waiving his no-trade clause. I am including the trade made between the Astros and Blue Jays in this writeup because I think it speaks to the true value of the trade.

Philadelphia Phillies acquired SP Roy Oswalt (and $11 M cash)
Houston Astros acquired SP J.A. Happ and minor leaguers OF Anthony Gose and SS Jonathan Villar

Houston Astros acquired 1B Brett Wallace
Toronto Blue Jays acquired OF Anthony Gose

The Phillies

Clearly, the Phillies get another ace to put up at the top half of their rotation, and with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt making up their top 3 starters, they look very strong if they make it into the playoffs. This wasn’t exactly what everyone had imagined as the pair of aces if the Phillies were to acquire Halladay last offseason, but it is still very formidable. By getting the $11 M, they have essentially been paid the cost of Oswalt for 2011 (he is owed $23 M through next season), and make the idea of giving up good players a lot more bearable. For them, Happ, Gose and Villar are the price it takes to make another run at a World Championship. The Phillies also did very well here in my opinion in that they were able to hold onto some of their higher end prospects like Jarred Cosart, Trevor May, and Jonathan Singleton.

The Astros

The Astros had pretty much been put in no-man’s land, and did surprisingly well here considering that fact. Happ is going to be at worst a #3 starter in the Majors in my opinion, and has shown some success previously. Minor leaguer Jonathan Villar is a very raw shortstop prospect, who looks like a speed guy to this point. He has 38 steals so far this year in 100 games in Single-A. The plate discipline concerns me quite a bit: 26 walks to 103 strikeouts in those same 100 games, but he’s still a very young prospect (only 19 at the time of the trade), and there’s a lot of upside there.

By acquiring Brett Wallace from the Blue Jays, they got a player who is a lot more major league ready than Gose, and can slot in as the replacement for Lance Berkman following the season. Berkman is on a team option for 2011, which will almost certainly be bought out instead of exercised ($2 M buyout versus $15 M salary). I find it extremely telling that the kid has now been traded 3 times in the past calendar year, as he was a part of the Matt Holliday trade and also the Roy Halladay trade group as well. Wallace has hit very well in the PCL this season, posting a .301/.359/.509 line with 18 HR and 61 runs batted in.

The Blue Jays

Anthony Gose, just 19 years old, trends to be a definite speedster out there as well. He stole 76 bases last season in a full season and has 36 so far this season as well. Another player who could struggle with poor plate discipline (32 walks vs. 103 strikeouts), but still has hit .263/.325/.385 at High-A Clearwater. I like this move for the Blue Jays, as it appears that they will be unable to move free agent to be Lyle Overbay, and were able to make a move of Wallace to get a player who has a high ceiling but who is also unlikely to arrive for another couple of seasons.

Overall, this trade was made with the hope that another pennant will be had by the Phillies, and I was actually surprised at how close the Phillies have gotten to the Braves in the last week. The Astros, considering all the limitations and cash issues that were surrounding moving Oswalt, did pretty well to get the players that they did. The one thing that really does concern me quite a bit about the Phillies is that they have already committed $143 million to a total of 17 players who are under contract for 2011. It seems to me like they could either end up spending similar amounts to the Yankees or have to find some serious bargains to help fill the roster. The biggest bonus for the Astros appears to be only having to pay the $11 million of the $23 million owed to Oswalt.

WINNER: Phillies

Trade Retrospective: Mark Langston

Next up on the trade retrospective is the trade of Mark Langston on May 25, 1989. He was traded to the Montreal Expos with P Mike Campbell for pitchers Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Randy Johnson.

The Background

On May 25th, the Expos were in 4th place in the NL East division, but only 3 games back in that race. It was still early in the season, and there was a possibility that a trade for an impact player could still make a difference in the race. The team had a solid if not amazing offense, and some solid pitching as well.

The Mariners were in 5th place in their division, and despite having a .500 record were already 7.5 games back in the race. Langston had established himself as a top flight starter in the American League, striking out at least 235 batters in each of the last 3 seasons. However, Langston was going to be eligible for free agency at the end of the 1989 season.

The Moving Pieces

Langston slotted into the Expos rotation, and gave the Expos another horse behind starters Dennis Martinez, Bryn Smith, and Pascual Perez.

Campbell was sent to the minors, where he spent the remainder of the season with the Expos’ AAA affiliate in Indianapolis.

Harris, Holman, and Johnson all were slotted into the starting rotation for the Mariners, with Johnson and Holman spending the rest of the season there, and Harris spending part of the season in the bullpen.

What Happened Next

Langston pitched extremely well, posting a 12-9 record with a 2.39 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 176 2/3 IP. Unfortunately, the Expos faded down the stretch, and finished 81-81, good for 4th in their division.

Gene Harris made 10 appearances with the Mariners in 1989, posting a lackluster 6.48 ERA and 1.860 WHIP.

Brian Holman pitched pretty well, going 8-10 with a 3.44 ERA in 22 starts. His control was a bit of an issue, striking out 82 but walking 62. He was still young though, and due for some growth.

Randy Johnson also made 22 starts, posting a 7-9 record with a 4.40 ERA. He also showed some control issues, striking out 104 and walking 70 in 131 innings.

The Net Moves

Expos – First Level

  • Langston filed for free agency after the 1989 season, and signed with the California Angels.
  • The Expos received two draft picks as compensation for losing Langston. They used these to draft OF Rondell White and P Gabe White.
  • Mike Campbell spent 1989 in the minors before being traded to the White Sox on 4/5/1990 for minor leaguer Rob Fletcher.

Mariners – First Level

  • Gene Harris was in Seattle from 1989-1992. He posted a 2-6 record with a 5.48 ERA in 51 games (6 starts). Nothing particularly impressive, as he struck out 69 in 93 2/3 IP and posted a 1.730 WHIP.
  • He was traded to San Diego on 5/11/1992 for minor leaguer Will  Taylor.
  • Brian Holman was in Seattle from 1989-1991. He posted a 32-35 record with a 3.73 ERA in 80 starts. He threw 544 2/3 IP, striking out 311 and posting a 1.381 WHIP.
  • Holman suffered a career-ending injury during the 1991 season, and never pitched again.
  • Randy Johnson was the prize of the trade, and spent 10 seasons in Seattle. He posted a 130-74 record with a 3.42 ERA, 2162 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP. He won the AL Cy Youn Award in 1995, came in 2nd place in 1993 and 1997, and 3rd place in 1994.

Expos – Second Level

  • Rondell White spent from 1993-2000 in Montreal, posting solid production. He hit .293/.348/.480 with 101 HR, 384 RBI, 88 SB, and a 113 OPS+.
  • He was traded to the Cubs on 7/31/2000 for P Scott Downs
  • Gabe White spent from 1994-1995 in Montreal. He posted a 2-3 record with a 6.57 ERA in 26 games.
  • He was traded to the Reds for minor leaguer Jhonny Carvajal on 11/15/1995.

Mariners – Second Level

  • Randy Johnson was traded from the Mariners to the Astros in 1998, and will be the subject of next week’s Trade Retrospective.
  • Minor Leaguer Will Taylor never made it to the Majors.

Expos – Third Level

  • Minor Leaguer Jhonny Carvajal never played in the Majors.
  • P Scott Downs spent from 2000-2004 with the Expos. He went 3-7 with a 5.74 ERA in 14 starts, throwing 69 innings and posting a 1.710 WHIP.
  • He was released on 11/29/2004, shortly after the team announced their move to Washington.

Overall Reactions

The Expos got what they were hoping for in terms of production, but unfortunately the team does not really appear to have had much of a chance of competing for that division title. They did receive the compensation picks, and were successful in drafting solid if not amazing players as compensation. Obviously, the Mariners did much better, as Randy Johnson turned into the ace we all know him as. Brian Holman also appears that he might have had a very high ceiling as well had he not been injured. Next week I will go over the Randy Johnson trade in 1998 that sent him to Houston, and which will help to show just how much of a slam dunk this trade was for the Mariners.

Trade Retrospective: Carlos Beltran

Next up on the trade retrospectives is the trade of Carlos Beltran on June 24, 2004. He was a part of a 3-way trade from the Royals, with the Astros receiving Beltran, the Royals receiving C John Buck, IF Mark Teahen, and P Mike Wood, and the Athletics receiving RP Octavio Dotel.

The Background

The Royals started out the 2004 season off to a slow start, which wasn’t entirely unexpected. Knowing that 5-tool outfielder Carlos Beltran would be a free agent at the end of the season, it became extremely clear that the Royals were very likely to trade him so that they would receive something in return for the free-agent-to-be.

The Astros were in the heat of a pennant race, and had spent a lot of money in the previous offseasons on high level acquisitions including Roger Clemens. They were 38-34, and only 5 games back of the first place Cardinals.

The Athletics were 40-31, only a single game back of the first place Angels, and well in the race for a playoff spot. They had been using Arthur Rhodes in the closer’s role but not particularly effectively, and needed some improvement at the back end of the bullpen.

The Moving Pieces

Carlos Beltran slotted into the Astros’ lineup in center field and in the heart of the order. The Astros added another excellent bat in their lineup with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, and Jeff Kent already providing excellent production.

The Athletics slotted Dotel into as the closer, and moved everyone else back in the bullpen, with former closer Arthur Rhodes slotting in as the 8th inning guy.

John Buck was slotted in as the starting catcher for the Royals the next day. Mark Teahen was sent to AAA Omaha, and spent the remainder of the 2004 season there. Mike Wood was called up by the Royals and spent the remainder of the 2004 season in their rotation.

What Happened Next

Beltran had an excellent rest of the season, hitting .258/.368/.559. He helped to carry the Astros to the playoffs, with them qualifying for the wild card. His better performance actually came in the playoffs, as he hit .455/.500/1.091 with 4 HR, 9 RBI and 2 SB in the series victory over Atlanta. While they didn’t win their next series against the Cardinals, it wasn’t really anything related to Beltran’s performance, as he hit .417/.563/.958 with another 4 HR, 5 RBI and 4 stolen bases.

Octavio Dotel came in to Oakland slotted as the closer, and made 45 appearances. He posted a 4.09 ERA, a 6-2 record, and 22 saves. He also recorded 72 strikeouts in just 50 innings with the A’s, although was somewhat prone to homeruns, as he gave up 9 in that time.

John Buck hit .235/.280/.424 in 71 games, with 12 homeruns and 30 rbi. Mike Wood went 3-8 with a 5.94 ERA in 100 innings for the Royals, and was also prone to homeruns a bit, giving up 16 in that time frame.

The Net Moves

Houston – First Level

Carlos Beltran became a free agent at the end of the season, and was signed by the New York Mets. As a result of this, the Astros received two compensation picks from the Mets. They used these selections to take OF Eli Iorg (1st round supplemental) and SS Tommy Manzella (3rd round)

Oakland – First Level

Octavio Dotel pitched the remainder of the 2004 season, and the entire 2005 season with the Athletics, and became a free agent after the 2005 season. Unfortunately, he did not return any compensation picks for signing with the Yankees.

Kansas City – First Level

  • John Buck played for the Royals from the 2004 season through the end of the 2009 season, when he was non-tendered. He hit for some solid power for a catcher, hitting 18 in 2007. However, the batting average never really came along with it, and never hit for an average higher than .247 with them.
  • Mike Wood pitched for the Royals from the 2004 season through the 2006 season. Over that time, he posted an 11-19 record with a 5.28 ERA in 87 appearances (34 starts). He was waived by the Royals after the 2006 season, and claimed by the Rangers.
  • Mark Teahen spent the rest of 2004 at AAA, but was called up early in the 2005 season. He played for the Royals from 2005-2009, moving all over the field. 2006 was his best season with the Royals, as he hit .290/.357/.517 with 18 HR, 69 RBI and 10 stolen bases. During this previous offseason, he was traded to the White Sox for infielders Chris Getz and Josh Fields.

Houston – Second Level

  • Eli Iorg spent parts of the 2005-2009 seasons in the minors with the Astros, leading to his release in July of 2009. He appears to be out of baseball.
  • Tommy Manzella is now the starting shortstop for the Astros, although that only became fact at the start of this season.

Kansas City – Second Level

Chris Getz and Josh Fields are both currently on the major league roster, although Getz is on the disabled list. Both players appear to be hoping for a fresh start in Kansas City, as they were unlikely to break into the lineup in Chicago.

Overall Reactions

This trade was rather unusual, in that I am not 100% sold it worked out well for anyone. The Astros received an excellent half season of Beltran, but knew going into the trade that they were unlikely to resign him. As a result, the draft picks that they received as compensation had to calculate into the value received from him. And to this point, those have been a complete disaster. For the A’s, Dotel wasn’t quite enough to get over that last hump to get into the playoffs, and it is highly possible that he may have actually cost them some victories. I can distinctly remember feeling particularly un-confident in his ability to shut the door on the game when it was going on. The Royals probably made out the best on this, although I imagine that they had been hoping for a better return than the one that they got. Buck and Wood were essentially filler pieces based on their performance, but Teahen turned into a solid everyday player. It remains to be seen whether Chris Getz or Josh Fields will help them get return for him.