Astros fans had to expect the organization to shake things up a bit with the trade deadline approaching. This has been one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball since last season, and any time trading away your best player subsides the bruising from a division opponent (like when Carlos Lee was traded in the middle of a series against the Pirates), then you know things are pretty bad.
So, since Friday, instead of dwelling over that embarrassing showing against the Padres earlier in the week, and getting amped for a weekend showdown with the Diamondbacks, it's been all about who the Astros are getting rid of, and what kind of obscure talent/prospects they're getting in return.
Let's look at it.
Out the door: Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, J.A. Happ and Brett Myers
That's four of the Astros' five highest paid players coming into this season, even though Houston is eating the majority of Lee's and Myers' deal. Outside of Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Cordero (brought over in the 10-player deal on Saturday), Houston's highest paid player is Chris Snyder - on the books for $750,000 this season.
There is a clear emphasis of a rebuild here. How long it will take to pan out, or if it ever will, remains to be seen. But the Stros have managed to dump the guys it made the most sense to get rid of, except Wandy, so far. In addition to making the most money on the team, we'd seen Lee's numbers decline from his first few seasons in an Astros uniform, while Brett Myers had been up and down recently and J.A. Happ was the weakest link in the starting rotation.
Lyon was a really good relief guy, but his 3.16 ERA in bullpen isn't exactly anything to write home about and neither is a pair of blown saves in July. So there wasn't any use in keeping him if there were any takers (as is the case with every player on the Astros' roster). The bullpen might be even worse this season without Lyon. My question is, what in the hell is this season, exactly?
Notable July trade acquisitions: 3B Matt Dominguez, LHP Rob Rasmussen, LHP Blair Walters, RHP Matt Heidenreich and the 7 players from the Toronto Blue Jays
Let's just start with the seven players the Stros got from the Blue Jays. Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco probably won't be Astros for long, but Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, and Carlos Perez are nice pickups.
And if nothing else, being this bad and grabbing seven players instead of being the team to give away seven players in a single trade deal is pretty damn impressive.
I was under the impression that trading Carlos Lee was more about trading Carlos Lee than getting quality prospects for him or ridding the franchise of that financial burden. Then I realized that Dominguez's defensive capabilities have been compared to that of Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. His two hits in eight at-bats in the Major League's this year don't really give us much insight on his potential at the plate, not like his .247 batting average and .297 on-base percentage in 87 Minor League games do.
As for the pitching prospects: Rasmussen is off to a rough start with the Astros organization with a 7.07 ERA in his three starts for Double-A Corpus Christi. Those starts also include giving up three home runs.
Here's the word on Walters from The Crawfish Boxes:
The book on Walters is he's got good command, a 90 MPH sinker, a good slider he flashed in the pros and great makeup. He's expected to be a LOOGY at the least, but could stick in the rotation. That sinker should also help him in the wind tunnel that is the California League
Heidenreich doesn't get that kind of love from the analysts and experts, and we wouldn't exactly call the evaluations on Walters "love." But the Astros got Heidenreich, too for what it's worth.
On the way out: Wandy Rodriguez, Jed Lowrie?
There had been reports about the Pirates being interested in Lowrie nearly a month ago, but that trade didn't actually happen. Now Lowrie's hurt and not quite as marketable as he was then. Not because teams don't believe he's worth trading for, but because he's not out there constantly reminding teams that he's available. Out of sight out of mind kind of stuff.
Rodriguez is healthy, but pitching coach Doug Brocail thinks all the trade talk distracts Wandy. He's gone from a 2.14 ERA in his first 10 starts to a 5.65 ERA in his last 10. His strikeout rate is down from his five previous seasons between 7.8 and 8.6 batters per nine innings to 6.0. As good as Wandy is, it's hard to sell teams on that kind of decline (unless you can sell them on the decline being attributed to distracting trade talk, I guess).
Will it work?
Nobody knows. It's also fair to point out that the rebuilding process is one that is only beginning. The Astros are sure to have an exciting draft process next year, which could include high ceiling prospects to be teamed up with what they already have. The Astros could be good within the next three or four years (sounds like a long time, but not really), or it could be even sooner than that if they get a bat or two.
But what we can take away from all of this is that watching Astros games is not about keeping score, and it really hasn't been for a long time. You want to look at how the young players are developing, almost like you're blogging for The Crawfish Boxes. Keeping score has a much different meaning right now.