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The Houston Astros have some new toys to play with

The Houston Astros have some new toys to play with
The Astros have some new faces in the dugout. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Every year the MLB trade deadline comes up, and every year there are buyers and sellers making deals. Some of these deals are minor moves to shore up some deficiencies, some are blockbuster trades that can shift the hierarchy. There are always deals where you scratch your head and wonder what the heck were they thinking. Then there are the ones that make immediate sense for the most obvious reasons.

The Astros had a need to add some hitting, as well as some bullpen help. Enter Trey Mancini, Christian Vazquez, and Will Smith (not THAT Will Smith). Mancini (30) comes from the Orioles franchise. He can DH, play first base, and has some experience playing the outfield. Vazquez (31) came from the Red Sox and is a catcher by trade. Smith (33) was sent here from the Braves and is a left-handed relief pitcher. At 30, 31, and 33, the Astros definitely didn't get any younger. However, they made those few moves to improve their team's chances at winning another title...without crippling their farm system.

Their farm system has taken some hits over the years due to trades made to keep the team competitive while on this current run, as well as the penalties from the sign stealing scandal. While it's been able to produce some top-notch talent keeping the big league team afloat, the Astros' minor leagues isn't highly ranked amongst the league's best. MLB.com ranked them 29th out of all 30 teams coming into this season. Keeping prospects gives them a better chance for future success. Here's what I think of the guys they traded for:

Mancini: He's a career .270 hitter with decent pop (about a 20 HR per year guy) and ability to play a couple different positions. He's a free agent at the end of this season, so he could be a rental. I see Mancini as insurance in case Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley, or Yuli Gurriel go down or need a breather since he can DH, play first, or play some outfield. Heard a person on radio say he's a very streaky hitter who's either red-hot or ice-cold. I'm interested in seeing if his streakiness is tied to being on one of the worst teams in baseball and if that trend ends

Vazquez: As a career .262 hitter, his average is 50 plus points higher than Martin Maldonado. Vazquez was brought in to be a backup catcher and late game replacement for Maldonado. The amount of times Machete has come through in the clutch as a defensive catcher is great, but his place in the lineup is as automatic of an out as the Astros have in their lineup. Vazquez is here to provide Machete insurance when the 8 or 9 hole is up in the order and they need to advance the runner.

Smith: Ryan Pressly has been the team's best reliever. Outside of him, the rest of the bullpen has been hit or miss. Another thing about the bullpen, and staff as a whole, is that Framber Valdez is the only lefty on the roster! Smith now brings a lefty to the pen which is something I feel all teams need. He hasn't been very good this season, but the Astros have been known to fix broken pitchers. Sure, Brent Strom ain't walkin through that door, but the guys he left behind are doing a great job. This season's 4.38 ERA is almost a full run higher than his 3.61 career average.

Overall, they didn't give up anything too significant. To those whining about losing Jose Siri, shut up! He's a J.A.G. if I've ever seen one. Outfielders with personality who hit around/below the Mendoza Line are a dime a dozen. Jake Odorizzi can be just as up and down as Smith. A move to the bullpen would've benefitted the team, but not Odorizzi. He didn't have a place in the starting rotation because of the depth there, and it was time to move on. The team helped shore up a couple small holes they had without mortgaging their future. Other teams are out here paying a ransom for guys who are and aren't worth it to their title hopes. The Astros helped their chances increase a bit. Keeping that window open a little further this season means the club is still all-in, and that's all fans want and care about.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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