The Houston Astros record currently sits at 26-35, nine games under .500. Maybe it is too early to really talk about fixing their holes in left field, shortstop, and the designated hitter. Earlier this week I discussed an internal option to perhaps buy a little more time. This post looks at a couple of guys among left fielders the Astros could try to acquire.
Some of these players would likely be very difficult to acquire while a couple could actually be within reason. In center field, Dexter Fowler is locked in with the 6th best wRC+ (119) among the position and the 2nd highest OBP (.386). George Springer was brought up as a center fielder but is currently patrolling right. Springer has a wRC+ of 130 and has displayed an ability to drive runs in with 32 RBI in his first 44 games.
Both of their stats are collectively much better than those the Astros have employed in left field. I tried to find players with similar numbers of Fowler and Springer yet had to be realistic to include players that would simply be an upgrade as of now.
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Ken Rosenthal actually suggests the Astros are a good suitor for Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies. In theory the Astros do have the resources to make that trade happen. Gonzalez is owed more than $50 million through the 2017 season. If the Rockies do indeed break up their star-studded duo they would likely need to eat some of the $50 million owed through the 2017 season. I do not think the Astros are real candidates anyways as the acquisition would send four or five top prospects which would likely include Nolan Fontana, Mike Foltynewicz, and Domingo Santana among others.
Cargo has actually had a down season thus far anyway. His wRC+ is at 92 along with a batting average of .255. He has also been recently added to the disabled list with finger inflammation. Honestly I am not in favor of the Astros trying to acquire this player regardless of how well he has played throughout his career. Too expensive and too long of a contract for my tastes.
(Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)
This guy would have been a perfect candidate to acquire in the offseason. Unfortunately for the Astros, he recently signed a team-friendly contract in February. Brian Heise, a writer for Wahoo’s on First, answered my inquiry about trade packages for Brantley.
"“Michael Brantley is untouchable in a trade for a couple of reasons and both have to do with the contract extension that he just signed. First, the extension he just signed is very team friendly. 4 years and $25 million with a club option in year five for $11 million. It seemed like a good deal at the time and now based on what he’s doing this year it looks like an even better deal. The second reason is because he JUST SIGNED that extension. Trading away our best player in 2014, who only looks to be getting better, immediately after signing him to an extension would come across very badly with an already easily irritable fan base. After trading away or losing out on several cornerstone players over the years, trading away Brantley right now would look like a sucker punch that would push many fans away fro good… probably. Total PR nightmare”"
Well, good try, I suppose. Like Heise said, Brantley is having a breakout season. Some analysts have pegged him for a platoon role but he has established himself as an everyday player this season. His wRC+ is actually well above Fowler and Springer’s, at 147. His OBP of .371 along with 9 home runs would be welcomed in the Astros lineup. Regardless, this is a player who would be a very nice fit but is unfortunately going to demand a difficult package for the Astros to offer. Heise suggested the Astros including a straight trade of Mark Appel for Michael Brantley.
Actually, I would be in favor of that, given that I am genuinely worried about Appel’s struggles in Class-A Advanced this season. Heise and the guys at Wahoo’s on First also included Rio Ruiz and Mike Foltynewicz among their trade considerations. My counter offer was Obie, Clemens, and Carlos Perez which Heise said he would likely highly consider.
On to the last suggestion.
3. Matt Joyce
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The Tampa Bay Rays have surprisingly struggled so far this season. With rumors of David Price being traded combined with a 23-38 record so far, they are likely to be selling at the trade deadline. Joyce is one of those players who doesn’t hit for a high average but is able to draw a lot of walks. Historically his strikeout rate is near 20%.
So far this season, Matt has the 8th highest OBP among left-fielders with a clip of .367. His wRC+, stressed due to Astros current mark of 72 at LF, is at 119. This mark has been consistently above 110 throughout his career.
Trading for this player would likely be the most balanced of the three players suggested. Joyce has a contract for the 2014 season and is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. Some packages would likely include LJ Hoes or Brett Oberholtzer.
What Should the Houston Astros Do?
Baseball-reference has the Astros SRS (Simple Rating System) at -0.2. This essentially indicates that the Astros are still under-performing this season to the tune of a 26-35 record. I believe that the pitching staff is coming together quite well. There are some obvious holes in left field and at shortstop. Carter has shown an increase in production lately.
Optimistically the Astros could be at .500 by the trade deadline and still trending upwards in the standings. If the organization decides to add a left-fielder, the suggestions above are some players who could be good fits. Brantley would probably be the best choice but a trade would not be accepted by the Indians fan base. The Rockies likely need to rebuild and that is going to be a decision made by their front office. Joyce could be the player who is most likely acquired by the Astros. We will find out in less than two months.