There are a number of starting pitchers rumored to be available for trade. In the event that Jordan Zimmermann is traded by the Nationals, the Houston Astros should win that sweepstakes. Currently, Nats GM Mike Rizzo has asked for three major-league ready prospects as per David Schoenfield of ESPN.
It has been quite a quiet offseason for the Houston Astros. Aside from the generous gift of Hank Conger from the Angels, there have not been additions to the Astros 2015 payroll. That could all change with a trade for Jordan Zimmermann.
Few people would argue that Zimmermann is one of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, both two years his senior, are currently on the free agent market. Zimmermann, who may or may not be moved, will likely have to wait until these players are off the market. There are also several other players who could be traded this winter as well. I have come up with a generalized version of three scenarios.
Scenario 1 (the Blockbuster) – In a very simple trade the Houston Astros would fulfill the Nationals goal of adding a second baseman, Jose Altuve, while the Astros receive a true #1 starter in Jordan Zimmermann. In the same calendar year where Jeff Luhnow received controversy regarding the #1 overall selection in the draft, trading away an MLB batting champion would surely rank second on blunders.
Scenario 2 (Blockbuster, w/o riots in Houston) – Perhaps the best course of action is to just try to fulfill Rizzo’s demand for three MLB-ready prospects. Carlos Correa and Mark Appel are #1 and #2 on the Astros prospect list and should not be included. Plus there are several well-respected reports that do not favor them being ready at the moment.
Mike Foltynewicz made his MLB debut during the 2014 season, as did Domingo Santana. Both of them are highly regarded players who find themselves on the outside looking in at their respective roles on the team. I have full faith that both players will acclimate themselves to performing well at the major league level. Preston Tucker is very underrated in the Astros system. During 2014 he hit 24 home runs between AA/AAA, including two home runs during the Astros futures game (one mezzanine bomb at MMP).
The move of Nick Tropeano this offseason notes that this front office is willing to trade players who have won minor league awards. Josh Hader is a quality left-handed pitcher with comparisons to Chris Sale and could definitely be an attractive piece in the eyes of the Nationals. Hader’s hometown is also within an hour of the DC area.
Scenario 3 (mix of MLB talent and prospects) – Rumors have stated that Jeff Luhnow has had a steep asking price on Jason Castro. The Nationals probably would like to add a catcher this winter. Castro would likely pair well with names mentioned above as well as Tony Kemp in a potential trade.
There would, without a doubt, be a large variety in reactions by many people for any of the above trade scenarios. Zimmermann is a bargain for the 2015 season. At $16.5 million, his services will be highly valued on the trade market. Even if he were to only pitch in 2015, the Astros would likely make the postseason, to the surprise of 99% of baseball.
Under the more realistic goal that the Astros will not be competitive in 2015, the acquisition makes zero sense. A winning record is not so far-fetched.
Either way trading for a legitimate ace is worth the risk. On one hand the Astros fail to make the playoffs, offer Jordan a QO, and get a quality draft pick in compensation. Or to return to the motto of Jarred Cosart: “Shock the World” and give up a handful of prospects for one of the best pitchers in the game.