Remember when the Houston Astros were after a hard-throwing closer at the trade deadline? The name Craig Kimbrel kept coming up as a potential target for the Astros to acquire to shore up the bullpen that eventually costs the Astros a deeper run in the playoffs. Game four of the ALDS was a primary example a time that the Astros could have used that shutdown arm to end the Royals scoring streak that cost the Astros the series. The confidence the Royals received in that comeback has helped put them in a favorable position against the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, up 2-0.
The San Diego Padres and Astros appeared to be perfect trade partners on several fronts, but they could not reach a deal. What were the trade parameters of the proposed Kimbrel to the Astros trade? Evan Drellich discussed it in his article on Sunday. Kimbrel finished the season with the Padres with the following stats, 4-2/ 2.58 ERA/ 39 Saves and 87 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. Here is what Drellich suggested the failed Kimbrel deal could have looked like.
The Astros would have received the closer Kimbrel from the Padres. The Padres would have received:
LHP Josh Hader
RHP Joseph Musgrove
RHP Francis Martes
It is not hard to understand why the Astros turned down that trade, even though Kimbrel would not be a free agent until after the 2016 season. The trade included some of the Astros most promising arms in their farm system. The Astros later traded Hader away in the Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers trade. He was one of the most promising left-handed starting pitchers in the Astros farm system. The Astros acquired him in the Bud Norris trade along with the pick that eventually turned into Derek Fisher, who is quickly moving through Astros system.
Martes was acquired as part of the Jarred Cosart trade from the Marlins in the 2014 season along with Colin Moran and Jake Marisnick. He had a breakout season in 2015 in his first full season with the Astros. He pitched between three levels in a season that had him finish with an 8-3/ 2.04 ERA/ 98 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings.
However, the biggest loss would have been Musgrove, who had a breakout season between the same three levels that Martes did. Musgrove was named the 2015 minor league pitcher of the year by the Houston Astros as I predicted here: Predicting the Houston Astros’ minor league pitcher and hitter of the year. Musgrove must be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, or he will be lost in the Rule V draft. According to Drellich, Musgrove being included was deemed as too much, which is why the trade fizzled out. Musgrove finished the season with a 12-1/ 1.88 ERA/ 99 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings between three levels.
Would I have been okay with the trade? Maybe, maybe Brett Phillips would not have been traded, and the Astros would not have Gomez or Fiers. However, the Astros decided to hold onto Martes and Musgrove because they see them as big parts of the future. As much as the Astros could have used Kimbrel in Game 4 of the ALDS, he probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference overall. We can all play the armchair GM, but it is the real guys who make the tough decisions.
What did other CTH writers think of the rumored trade, let’s ask them?
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I believe that the Astros were right not to deal significant future starting pitching value for an expensive closer. Kimbrel is a great player, but the Astros can use both the trade chips and the financially flexibility to make a greater impact on the roster, short-term and long-term.
I would have made the deal. Yes, Musgrove would be a big loss to the farm system, but the bullpen was such a big need, and I think their early successes blinded Astros front office. I do not know if that trade would take us to the ALCS, but it definitely would have helped.
In my opinion, the three players mentioned (Martes, Hader, Musgrove) were too much value to trade for Kimbrel. For those three pitchers, only someone such as Aroldis Chapman would be worth giving up so much.
Hindsight is 20/20, and a bullpen collapse was hard to predict in July even though there was a need then for a guy that misses bats. I would not have made the, and they may get the opportunity to make the same deal next year for a cheaper price. Wouldn’t have made the trade.