As they make their way to becoming a winning team again, the Houston Astros are in the process of becoming a legitimate option for those top-tier, premier trade possibilities and free agents. One of those players that could be made available for the right deal could be hard throwing Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg. With the prospect load that the Astros have and because of the Nationals disastrous downfall last season, a deal of this magnitude could be the one that puts the Astros in a position to be a force in the American League.
After being the favorite for many to win the World Series in 2015, the Nationals lowered expectations with a mediocre record of 83 wins and 79 losses. With young starters on the way such as Joe Ross and Lucas Giolito, the Nationals are listening to offers for Strasburg, who is one year away from free agency, according to an article from Scott Miller with Bleacher Report. Strasburg, the first pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, has been a solid yet injury prone pitcher for their staff. He holds a career 10.44 K/9 average while walking batters only 6.1% of the time.
Even though he pitched a 2015 campaign that was shortened because of two disabled list stints including one in July for a strained oblique muscle, he still managed to pitch well with a record of 11 wins and seven losses and a 3.46 ERA. Hitters still struck out 29.6% of the time versus walking only 5% of the time. According to an interview with Bleacher Report, after a strong second half to his season in which he went 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA, the Nationals are looking to trade him as a top of the rotation guy.
Speculation on the Cost for Strasburg
The question at the forefront of any Astros fan is how much are we going to have to give up? According to an unnamed executive, a team would have to give up, “a good prospect who’s close, another one further down, and someone to help your big league team now.” The Astros, with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, have many players that would meet these three criteria for a trade. This quote comes from Miller’s article: Stephen Strasburg Trade Bidding War Will Begin at a Kings Ranson.
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The Astros have plenty of options for the Nationals along the lines of a prospect who is close. It really all depends on what kind of prospect the Nationals are looking for. The easiest guy to link to this deal is Mark Appel, the Astros’ number two prospect from MLB Pipeline. Appel, like Strasburg, was a number one pick in the draft back in 2013 after returning for his senior season at Stanford in 2012. Arguably the closest prospect to the major leagues in this system, the ceiling, is high for Appel. He has a nice fastball and two above-average secondary pitches that are above average.
If Appel were to stay in the Astros farm system, he would start in AAA Fresno. On the other side of the ball, the Nationals could look at players such as Colin Moran, a third baseman who is the number 10 prospect, or Tony Kemp, a second base/outfielder who is number 11. These would be lesser known players outside of this organization so most likely the deal would get larger with either further down prospects or a better major league caliber player.
The rest of the deal all depends on who that main prospect is. As far as the player that can help the team now, a bullpen piece would most likely help the Nationals the most. I would think a player along the lines of Will Harris or Pat Neshek would be thrown into the deal. Both are solid middle relievers that can help an ailing bullpen.
The Astros have all of the pieces in place to make this deal work. However, with Strasburg becoming a free agent after the 2016 season and him testing out the waters next winter, I don’t think dealing out these pieces would be worth the possibility of just a one year Strasburg rental.