Astros moves set them up for contention this year and beyond
The Astros made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, acquiring another legitimate ace starter in Zack Greinke. The move makes them the clear favorites to come out of the American League, but also set them up for the future. In addition, they made two other deals to bolster a roster that is now healthy and already loaded. A look at what the moves mean:
Loaded for the stretch in 2019
The Astros might have the best rotation in baseball. They certainly will for the playoffs, when the rotation shortens to three or four pitchers. This is how they will stack up:
Justin Verlander, 14-4, 2.73 ERA
Gerrit Cole 12-5, 2.94
Zack Greinke, 10-4, 2.90
Wade Miley, 9-4, 3.06
Verlander (1), Cole (4) and Miley (6) are all top six in ERA in the American League. Greinke would rank third if he put up the same numbers in the AL. All that means the Astros now have four of the top seven pitchers in the entire American League.
Oh, and with everyone healthy? The lineup is a monster. George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel...That's seven deep of All-Star caliber players.
Throw in a bullpen that when healthy is terrific in the eighth and ninth innings, and there simply is not a better day-in, day-out team in baseball.
The "other" guys
The Astros also re-acquired Martin Maldonado to beef up the catching. They now have two legitimate major league catchers on the roster. Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini add some pitching depth. Biagini adds some more help to the pen, while Sanchez is an intriguing project. At one time, he looked like one of the best young pitchers in baseball. But he has struggled mightily the past few seasons, including this year. But if the Astros can get him right, he could become a nice longterm piece in the rotation, or at least help in the pen. If not? The price was low. It is a low risk, high reward move.
Oh, the future...
The Greinke move also acts as insurance in case Cole leaves in free agency. Of the key players, only Cole and Miley are not under team control next season. So the Astros will be serious contenders in 2020, too. Even if they lose Cole, they will have a top three in the rotation of Verlander/Greinke/Lance McCullers. And odds are they bring at least one of Cole and Miley back. If not? Maybe they fix Sanchez. Maybe Forrest Whitley is finally ready. If they do bring them both back? Next year's rotation will be even better. That's a scary thought. And the everyday lineup will remain virtually the same. If the Astros need to clear some money, they can move Josh Reddick and his $13 million per year if Kyle Tucker is ready. And let's not dismiss the Verlander factor. His acquisition made it cool to be an Astro. Greinke chose to be in Houston and turned down the Yankees. Players want to be in Houston now.
And let's also give the Astros credit for the off-season signings of Brantley and Miley. They were low-risk, manageable contracts that have more than paid off. While Miley will command more money in the off-season, Brantley is back in 2020 at a reasonable number. This team is going to be good for a long time.
The dearly departed
The Astros did give up some assets. But the reality is, trades are supposed to benefit both teams. It also should benefit the players. The Tony Kemp for Maldonado deal helped the Astros and the Cubs. Maldonado was a luxury in Chicago; Kemp had already been designated for assignment. Both should benefit their new teams. As for the Toronto trade, Derek Fisher never quite worked out in Houston and was blocked by Myles Straw and Tucker. Maybe he develops, and at least he gets a chance. As for the Greinke trade? Seth Beer may become a good player. But will he better than Alvarez? J.B. Buskakas is highly regarded but has yet to develop. Corbin Martin just had Tommy John surgery. So who knows? The Astros got a legitimate ace. Even if those players become solid major leaguers, it was worth it.
The bottom line
For the first time, Houston has one of the best run organizations in all of sports. The Rockets try and keep taking chances and maybe it will work out. The Texans? Wasting the careers of DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson by failing to help them. The Astros don't do everything right, but when they make a mistake they correct it. They make bold, thoughtful moves. Will they win another World Series? Maybe. Win or lose, however, they make the right decisions.
And Houston fan should be happy for it.