With the deal that they pulled off on Wednesday, the Houston Astros once again made a huge splash in trading for an elite starting pitcher for the third time in two seasons, this time with Zack Greinke.
With the rotation now boasting four of the top 10 hurlers in ERA in the game, Houston looks like the team that everyone is chasing again down the home stretch. Combine this deal, with adding Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini, it seems like the Astros are ready to cruise back to the World Series.
In the deal, Houston went deep into their farm system. They conceded numbers three, four, five, and 22 prospects from MLB Pipeline in Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin, and Josh Rojas.
Since we all know Greinke’s credentials, as the top arm available at the deadline, lets get into the prospects. Beer has been strong once again in 2019, as he continues to advance and hit for power. He progressed to Double-A about a third of the way through the campaign and has not missed a beat, hitting .299 with 16 home runs in 234 at bats. Overall, he has 25 long balls in 362 at bats between two levels, which is good for one every 14.5 at bats. He has also only struck out 88 times between the two levels for a 24 percent rate. If his power continues to develop, Beer could be an elite level power hitter as he reaches the juiced ball levels.
Bukauskas has been viewed as one of the Astros top prospects for years now after dominating at North Carolina. He is still only 22 and has already advanced to Double-A. Bukauskas has been an elite strikeout pitcher at every level, but his command issues have hit a head this season, with a 5.7 BB/9 rate in 20 games. While he is missing the strike zone too much, Bukauskas also misses bats. While his command has never been superb, Arizona will have to reign that in if they plan to have the right hander approach his full potential.
Martin appeared in nine games in Triple-A and five with the Astros before he was given the bad news that his right arm required Tommy John surgery just about a month ago. Martin was a quick riser, has he advanced to Houston in just his second full professional season. He dominated High-A and Double-A last season with a 2.51 ERA, 1.008 WHIP and a 9.0 K/9. His BB/9 was 2.6 as well, the best of his professional career. Martin also produced this season with the juiced balls and the insane scoring in the PCL, posting a miniscule 3.13 ERA and just two home runs in 37.1 innings of work. His BB/9 did creep up a bit to 4.3, but the conditions could be impacting that. If Martin can return from the surgery at full strength, he could be the most impactful player in this deal.
Rojas has been a solid performer and has reached Triple-A in just three Minor League seasons. In 53 games at the level this season, he has hit .310 with a .987 OPS. Even with the solid numbers, scouts seem to regard him as a utility player at the next level. However, if he continues to hit, the Diamondbacks will have to create a place for him and he could be a steal as a fourth throw in player.
With his consistent and great career performance, the return is always going to be huge for Greinke. Combine that with Arizona taking on some of his contract, the return seems to be overwhelming and what we all heard teams were asking for big names with team control. However, elite prospects do not always pan out either, and Houston has had a knack for getting difference makers for an October run by giving away the least possible.
In looking at the other two deals, it appeared that the Astros were giving away a huge ransom as well. However, optics can be deceiving. In the Gerrit Cole trade, they unloaded Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and Jason Martin. Musgrove has been good, but nowhere near what you would expect for a headliner coming back in a deal for an ace. Moran has stuck with the Pirates, but at best as a role player. Feliz has been up and down between Triple-A and Martin has debuted with the Pirates, but has spent most of his time in Triple-A as well. Moran joined the organization as the number four prospect and Jason Martin as number 18. Musgrove and Feliz had already graduated.
Then looking at the Verlander deal, the Astros unloaded at the time numbers three, nine, and 11 prospects Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers to the Tigers. Rogers recently debut in the big leagues and appears to be an above average defensive backstop. Perez still has a big upside, as he is only 21 years old. However, he has struggled with injuries and performance since the trade and has yet to proceed out of High-A in the Detroit organization. He has only appeared in two games in 2019 due to injuries. Cameron has shown flashes at Triple-A, but has struggled with consistency and is hitting just .222 in 2019.
Though the bounty that they surrendered for Greinke is much higher than the other two deals, nothing is ever guaranteed with prospects. Regardless if these prospects all are All-Stars in the future, if Houston goes to another World Series, the deal is a win in their direction. The deal also gives them flexibility moving forward with an elite pitcher for the rotation if Cole and Wade Miley go in a different direction this offseason.