Since Wesley Wright‘s arrival with the Houston Astros in 2008, he has tried to figure out his ideal role as a Major Leaguer. Finally, last season Wright and the Astros realized that he makes a pretty good left-handed specialist. 2012 was Wright’s breakout season as he posted career highs in appearances and SO/BB ratio and career lows in ERA and WHIP. Wright is one of the few players on the Astros’ roster making over $1 million for 2013, and the team now has a few other options in camp that may be able to fill his role. Because of those two factors, it makes sense to ask if he could be dangled out on the trade market prior to the start of the regular season.
The Astros currently have four left-handed relievers in camp: three with Major League experience and one prospect that looks as if he could be ready for the bigs in 2013. In addition to Wesley Wright, the Astros have Xavier Cedeno, Sergio Escalona and 25-year old prospect, Kevin Chapman. Escalona and Cedeno are both relatively young and have both had success at the Major League level.
Sergio Escalona is 28 years old and was acquired from the Phillies in 2011. He appeared in 49 games for the Astros in 2011, posting a 2.93 ERA. He held left-handed hitters to a .188 batting average and struckout 19.4% of the lefties that he faced. Escalona missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his UCL in Spring Training, which required Tommy John surgery.
26-year old Xavier Cedeno made the most of his time in Houston in 2012, making 44 appearances and posting a 3.77 ERA. Cedeno faced 70 left-handed hitters and held them to a .210 batting average while striking out 38.6% of the lefties he faced. He posted an impressive 2.84 FIP in 2012 and he has looked pretty good thus far in Spring Training.
Kevin Chapman came to Houston from the Royals as part of the Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois trade just prior to the start of the 2012 season. He is a big guy with a fastball that lives in the mid-90s. He features an electric slider and an average change up. Chapman spent 2012 at double-A Corpus Christi, making 49 appearances while posting a 2.79 ERA. Escalona and Cedeno may make good left-handed specialists, but Chapman has the potential to be a valuable, late-inning reliever. While his slider is absolutely devastating to lefties, he has the ability to shutdown righties as well. He showed some control issues last season, walking nearly 5 hitters per 9 innings. So far in Spring Training he has shown great command in his only two appearances, throwing 2.1 perfect innings while striking out three.
Wesley Wright is one of the two longest tenured Astros. He made 77 appearances last season with a 3.27 ERA and held lefties to a .197 batting average. Wright faced 133 lefties and struck out 29.3% of them while posting an overall 2.51 FIP in 2012. He is only 28 years old and under team control through 2015, so he could be appealing to a contending team in search of a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy).
While left-handed specialists do not typically have much trade value, it may be wise of the Astros to try to package Wright in any Bud Norris or Brett Wallace trade talks that may be taking place. I believe Wright has hit his ceiling and there is just no room in the bullpen for four lefties.