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Deals Of Days Past: Your Astros Trade History Primer

Let's look through history at notable Astros trades, seeing who won and who lost each of them.

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Yes, I could tell you all about what may be happening on the Astros trade front, which players may be going places, who might be coming back to Houston. Enough with that, already. These rumors have been driving me crazy! Instead, let's focus on some of the big trades from seasons past. What were the highlights, the lowlights, the ones that got away and the most ill-advised trades in franchise history?

The First

February 23, 1961: Traded Morrie Martin to the Milwaukee Braves. Received Jim Campbell.

This is the first ever trade by the expansion Houston Colt .45s. Martin was a 38-year old pitcher who had played with seven teams in his 10 year career. He hadn't pitched in the majors in two seasons, but signed with Houston and was traded to the Brewers before the Colt .45s played their first game. Campbell was a backup catcher for Houston in 1962 and 1963, playing in 82 games and striking out a staggering 62 times in 172 plate appearances. Winner: Houston

December 10, 1963: Traded Jim Golden, Danny Murphy and cash to the Chicago White Sox. Received Nellie Fox.

From the first trade to the first big trade for your Colt .45s. Nellie Fox was a Hall of Famer at second base, known for his speed and defense. He didn't steal a lot of bases, but was one of the foundation pieces for those Go-Go White Sox teams. Fox played two seasons in Houston but started for just one. He only played in 21 games in the 1965 season before retiring. Jim Golden never played a game for the White Sox, while Danny Murphy pitched for two seasons as a reliever. He won a total of four games for Chicago and saved nine. Winner: Houston

The Big Red Disaster

November 29, 1971: Traded Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke and Joe Morgan to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Tommy Helms, Lee May and Jimmy Stewart.

Not only did the Astros give up a Hall of Fame talent in Morgan, they also stocked the Big Red Machine in the process. Morgan finished no lower than eighth in the MVP voting in the five years following this trade, including winning the award in '75 and '76. The Reds made five World Series appearances after this trade, including two titles in '75 and '76. As for the rest of the trade, Armbrister was a pinch-hitting outfielder who never played much for Cincy, Billingham won 87 games with the Reds, including two 19-win seasons, Geronimo won four Gold Gloves playing in center field while only Menke had the decency to suck it up with the Commies.

For the Astros, Helms matched his career averages exactly for four seasons at second base, but failed to win a Gold Glove, as he had previously with the Reds (those went to Morgan). May hit 81 home runs with Houston, got MVP votes in '72 and '73 and was an All-Star in '72. He was then traded to Baltimore for Enos Cabell. Jimmy Stewart was a no-hit utility player that played two seasons with Houston before retiring.

Even with the addition of Cabell, who was a solid player for Houston for eight years, this trade was a disaster. The best three players headed to Cincinnati and directly changed the course of National League history during that decade. Yes, Lee May was a very good player, but was he worth a Hall of Famer, an ace pitcher AND a Gold Glove defender in center field? Not by a long shot. Winner: Cincinnati

Great Scott

December 10, 1982: The New York Mets traded Mike Scott to the Houston Astros for Danny Heep.

Say what you want about Scotty's splitter, but the Astros absolutely fleeced the Mets in this deal. Heep was a fourth outfielder who also played first base for the Astros and ended up doing the exact same thing for the Mets and three other teams before his career wound down. Scott was a middlingly talented long reliever who had started some games for the Mets before the trade with little success. He struggled in his first couple seasons in Houston, but when he turned it on, he really went to town: Two 18-win seasons, a Cy Young award, two top 15 appearances on the MVP ballot and a no-hitter to clinch the NL West title in 1986. Scott won 110 games in nine seasons with Houston and is still the only Astros pitcher to win a Cy Young award. Winner: Houston

Bagwell for Anderson

August 30, 1990: The Boston Red Sox traded Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for Larry Andersen.

This is one of the most celebrated trades from the Astros perspective. Houston picked up a possible Hall of Famer who won an MVP and hit over 400 home runs in his career. Anderson was a journeyman middle reliever who threw 22 innings for the Red Sox before leaving after the season via free agency and signing with San Diego. Even with his 1.27 ERA in Boston, that's a steep price for Jeffrey Robert. Winner: Houston

The Glenn Davis Heist

January 10, 1991: Traded Glenn Davis to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling.

I talked about this in a recent post over at The Crawfish Boxes, but this was a pretty amazing trade. The Orioles traded away 53 seasons from three players for three seasons of Tony Clark (Davis' most similar player from Age 30 to 32). Clark was a valuable pinch hitter that got traded a couple times late in his career, but you don't give up three players like Baltimore did for an injury-prone first baseman. Oh, yeah, that's right, Davis didn't play from June 24 to August 29 with an injury. It wasn't like Baltimore couldn't have known what it was getting into. All three players had better careers outside of Houston that with the Astros, but it's a very impressive haul. Winner: Houston


November 27, 1978: The Toronto Blue Jays traded Andy Ashby to the Houston Astros for Joe CannonPedro Hernandez and Mark Lemongello.

The Astros traded for Alan Ashby during the winter of 1978. That trade (above) can be categorized a win for Houston, since the three players traded to the Blue Jays played 161 games combined. Ashby? He totaled 965 games with Houston, playing in the first two playoff series for the franchise and then moving into the radio booth for a successful stint as Milo's sidekick. Winner: Houston

After Ashby left following the '89 season, though, Houston went on a Quest For The Next Catcher. Observe the following moves: 

December 10, 1991

The Cleveland Indians traded Eddie Taubensee with Willie Blair to the Houston Astros for Kenny Lofton and Dave Rohde.

April 19, 1994 

The Houston Astros traded Eddie Taubensee to the Cincinnati Reds for Marty Lister (minors) and Ross Powell.

June 28, 1995 

The Chicago Cubs traded Rick Wilkins to the Houston Astros for Luis Gonzalez and Scott Servais.

July 27, 1996

The Houston Astros traded Rick Wilkins with cash to the San Francisco Giants for Kirt Manwaring.

Six different catchers involved in four trades, including two separate deals for Rick Wilkins and Eddie Taubensee. Servais, Taubensee and Wilkins all found success with teams other than Houston, while Manwaring basically held down the fort for another catcher coming in one of the mega-deals up next. As for these trades, Houston missed out on a long, successful career from Kenny Lofton as well as Luis Gonzalez with these trades, as well as never really settling their catching situation. All in all, this merry-go-round was a big, old failure. Winner: Catchers Leaving Houston

Mega Deals Galore

From 1994 to 2000, the Astros had three trades that were simply huge, by any standards. One of them was with the San Diego Padres and the other two with the Detroit Tigers, who were helmed by GM Randy Smith, the son of longtime Astros executive Tal Smith.

December 28, 1994

Traded a player to be named later, Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine and Brian Williams to the San Diego Padres. Received Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez, Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley. The Houston Astros sent Sean Fesh (minors) (May 1, 1995) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.

Lots and lots of moving parts here. The Astros traded away Caminiti, who went on to win an MVP award, a starting shortstop and centerfielder for a starting right fielder, a starter at short and a possible third baseman (who didn't pan out). I looked at this deal from a value perspective a while back at TCB, but it's worth noting that Derek Bell proved pretty valuable. Still, the Astros got hosed on this deal. Plantier and Shipley didn't pan out at all, with Plantier getting shipped back to the Padres before the All-Star break in 1995. Winner: San Diego

December 10, 1996:

Traded Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter, Todd Jones, Orlando Miller and cash to the Detroit Tigers. Received Brad Ausmus, Jose Lima, Trever Miller, C.J. Nitkowski and Daryle Ward.

Another huge deal, featuring some of the players from the previous trade. Going out are two relievers, an outfielder and a shortstop. In return, the Astros get a Gold Glove catcher, a future 20 game winner and two relievers. Plus, the kickingest Afro in franchise history (DDub). Jones went on to make a couple All-Star games as closer for Detroit, while Ausmus excelled in his first tour of duty with Houston. Winner: Houston

December 11, 2000:

Trade Roger CedenoChris HoltMitch Meluskey to the Detroit Tigers. Received Brad AusmusDoug Brocail and Nelson Cruz.

After shipping out Ausmus after the 1997 season (because the franchise couldn't keep a catcher for longer than two seasons back then), the Astros reacquired the venerable backstop for their own young catcher. Mitch Melusky was notable not only for the hype surrounding his ascent to the big leagues, but also for being one of the few players to piss off Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. In fact, Melusky got in a fight with Baggy around the batting cages in the middle of this season. Consider this trade addition by subtraction. Winner: Houston

Astros Get Big Unit

July 31, 1998: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later, Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. The Houston Astros sent John Halama (October 1, 1998) to the Seattle Mariners to complete the trade.

Yes, Randy Johnson only played less than half a season for Houston. What you can't quantify, though, is how he electrified the city. Every one of his starts was sold out. He barely allowed a run in his entire Astros tenure (not really, but that's how I remember it). If not for Kevin Brown's evilness, Johnson would have won the Astros' first playoff series in history and possibly pitched them into the World Series. As it was, the Astros were bounced by the Padres in five games during the NLDS and Johnson left for Arizona during the offseason. Both Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen went on to make All-Star appearances. Winner: Seattle

Don't Piss Off The Owner

November 3, 2003: Houston Astros trade Billy Wagner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ezequiel Astacio, Taylor Buchholz and Brandon Duckworth.

A year after being traded to Philadelphia, Billy Wagner's kids asked him why he didn't still play for Houston. Wagner responded, "Because Daddy can't keep his big mouth shut." The Kid publicly criticized Drayton McLane after the season in 2003, saying the Astros would never win while the owner was so cheap. That happened after the Astros missed the playoffs for a second straight season and Wagner was packing up his locker for the offseason.  A month later, he had a new zip code. The Astros didn't get a great return here, mainly because teams knew they had them over a barrel. There might have also been some vindictiveness on the part of Gerry Hunsicker, since Drayton was forcing his hand. This could have been the beginning of the end for their relationship, since Hunsicker left the next season. At any rate, even as an older guy, Wagner outpitched any of the other guys in this deal after the trade. Winner: Phillies

Pujols Did This

November 7, 2007: Houston Astros trade Brad Lidge with Eric Bruntlett to the Philadelphia Phillies for Mike Costanzo (minors), Michael Bourn and Geoff Geary.

Another reliever, another high profile incident. This time, it was that monster, soul-crushing home run Albert Pujols sent into the Houston night during the 2005 NLCS. No matter that the Astros went on to win the next game and make the World Series. Lidge was never the same in Houston. He was shipped out shortly after Ed Wade was hired as GM for Michael Bourn and change. Costanzo would go on to help the Astros make this next deal, but the real winner seems to be Bourn. LIdge was perfect in 2008 with 40 saves but has suffered through injuries and ineffectiveness since. Bourn, however, made his first All-Star appearance this year and won a Gold Glove in the offseason. He is young and appears to be the new face to the franchise. Winner: Houston

The Mitchell Report And You

December 12, 2007: The Baltimore Orioles trade Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for Mike Costanzo (minors), Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Dennis Sarfate and Luke Scott.

They day before the Mitchell Report was released, the Houston Astros traded for Miguel Tejada. Long the apple of owner Drayton McLane's eye, Tejada joined Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman in the heart of a newly dangerous order. That is, until former Senator George Mitchell named Tejada in his report on steroid use in baseball. That damaged an otherwise good trade and put into question why Ed Wade gave up so much for a guy who's trade value was sure to plumment. The answer is, he really didn't give up too much. Patton was highly regarded, but arm injuries have derailed his progress to the big leagues. Albers has been a so-so reliever. Only Scott has been a decent big-league regular, but the Astros would have had no spot for Scott. Objectively, the Astros may have given up too much, but as time goes on, it looks like a good return for two years of Tejada. Winner: Push

Roy Oswalt and Beyond

The Astros have traded Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar. Until we know more and see how these prospects develop, we can't really judge whether this will be a win or a loss for Houston. What I do know is that history is on Houston's side. They have had some high-profile duds, but for the most part, Houston has fared pretty well in its trading history. I know this isn't a comprehensive look, but it should hit the high points.

Before we go, I wanted to touch on one of my favorite notes of all time on Baseball Reference. This is describing how the Astros got Larry Anderson in 1979:

Larry Anderson received from the Philadelphia Phillies in an unknown transaction.

I'd like to think he was won in a card game.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.