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Houston Astros: Key Trades of the Luhnow Era, So Far.

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Taking a Look at Some of the Houston Astros Trades Under Jeff Luhnow

The 2016 baseball season is rapidly approaching, and in the city of Houston, this year is one of the most anticipated seasons since the names of Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman, and Oswalt.  Since December 2011, when Jeff Luhnow was named the general manager, there have been some dark years of 100+ losses.  However, during those abysmal seasons, Luhnow has had more hits than misses in assembling the team to its present form.  Let’s focus on some of the key trades of Luhnow’s tenure thus far.

12/8/2011 – Astros trade RHP Marco Duarte to Red Sox for IF Marwin Gonzalez

In his first moments as the Houston Astros GM, Luhnow acquired one of the key pieces of the current Astro team.  Marwin Gonzalez, who at the time was a Rule 5 draft pick, had spent five years in the Cubs’ minor league system, where his final year, in 2011, netted him a .288 BA, 4 HR’s, 7 SB, .968 Fld%.  Last year alone, Marwin hit .279/12 HR’s in just 370 at bats and more importantly played almost every position defensively.  He has become not only the ultimate utility man but a leader in the clubhouse.  As for Duarte, he now pitches for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico in the Mexican League.  Mark that as a win for the Astros.

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7/5/12 – Astros trade cash and OF Carlos Lee to Miami for 3B Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen

This trade should be labeled as “Luhnow Hooks a Marlin – Part 1”.  In an apparent move to cut bait with El Caballo, Carlos Lee, and his ridiculous salary, the Astros convinced Miami that he, along with paying for most of his remaining contract, was a good deal for a couple of young players, including a former first round pick.  Lee went on to hit 4 HR’s for the Marlins in the remainder of 2012 and then retired. Matt Dominguez, who was a 1st round draft pick, got his shot at third base and had a few moments of glory. He was eventually claimed off of waivers by Milwaukee and now with Toronto.  Rob Rasmussen has just retired.  While no history changing moves were made here, the simple fact that Houston was able to get the prospects they did for a 36-year-old Lee is impressive.

12/3/13 – Astros trade OF Brandon Barnes and P Jordan Lyles to Colorado Rockies for OF Dexter Fowler

Fowler ended up playing CF for the Astros for one season and put up mediocre numbers.  Barnes is currently a backup OF for the Rockies, and Lyles an end of the rotation starter.  This trade alone is relatively insignificant but set up a pivotal transaction including Fowler later on.

7/31/2014 – Astros trade P Jarred Cosart, OF Kike Hernandez and OF Austin Wates to Miami for OF Jake Marisnick, P Francis Martes, and 3B Colin Moran

Consider this “Luhnow Hooks a Marlin – Part 2.”  While this trade is still panning out, already the Astros appear to have gotten the much better end of this deal.  Cosart went 2-5 with a 4.52 ERA last year before getting diagnosed with vertigo in August.  Kike Hernandez still looks promising, the problem for the Marlins is that he actually plays for the Dodgers now, and Wates is still in AAA.  Meanwhile, the Astros got a defensive OF in Marisnick, who has also had a knack for clutch hitting.  Martes and Moran are two of the Astros’ top prospects, with Moran competing this year for his first crack at the majors.  Once again, Houston received another former 1st round pick from Miami with Moran.

1/14/15 – Astros traded P Mike Foltynewicz, 3B Rio Ruiz, P Andrew Thurman to Atlanta Braves for OF/DH Evan Gattis and P Andrew Thurman

The young, hard throwing “Folty” and prospect 3B Ruiz were the key pieces in this deal.  While appealing prospects, this was a trade to make the Astros lineup better immediately.  Evan Gattis led the club in HR’s and RBI’s with 27 and 88 respectively but delivered a mere .246 BA.  If he can deliver a higher average, his RBI numbers will definitely climb, as well as the worth of this trade.  It is still too early to determine who got the better deal, but one nice note is that Gattis isn’t slotted to hit free agency until 2019.

1/19/2015 – Astros trade OF Dexter Fowler to Chicago Cubs for 3B Luis Valbuena and P Dan Straily

The Fowler flip was a good one.  Straily hasn’t panned out, but Valbuena has been a solid defender on the hot corner, with a .974 Fld% last year.  Offensively, Valbuena was feast or famine, with 25 HRs and a .225 BA. It’s worth mentioning that he also drew the second-most walks on the team at 50.  While Valbuena may not be in Houston after this year, he has provided great defense and could be in for a big year if he can hit for a higher average.

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7/30/2015 – Astros trade P Adrian Houser, P Josh Hader, OF Brett Phillips, OF Domingo Santana to Milwaukee for OF Carlos Gomez and P Mike Fiers

A blockbuster trade pulled off before the trade deadline last year sent top prospects from Houston to the Brewers, but the Astros received one of the top offensive and defensive outfielders in the game in Gomez.  Houston also received Fiers who did well in his starts, including a no-hitter.  Houston gave up a lot but received immediate, game-changing players.  Milwaukee, for the state of their organization is in, came out good in this one too.

12/12/2015 – Astros trade P Mark Appel, P Brett Oberholtzer, P Harold Arauz, P Thomas Eshelman, P Vincent Velasquez to Philadelphia for P Ken Giles and SS Jonathan Arauz

Another big trade here with Houston sending a bulk of minor league arms in return for a young, flame-throwing closer Ken Giles.  One of Luhnow’s few misses, #1 overall pick Mark Appel had lost his way in Houston, and it was time for him to move on to a fresh start.  However, the Astros did have to part ways with Velasquez, who had a promising start to his career in 2015.  The Astros did lack a hard-throwing closer last year, and they have remedied that with Giles, who is also not eligible for free agency until 2021.

Next: Houston Astros: Bold Predictions Based On Spring Training

If the Astros play as expected in 2016, another pennant race trade in late July is likely, possibly for a big starting pitcher.  But as opening day approaches, the team Luhnow has the potential to give Houston’s its first World Series championship in franchise history.

**Stats from Baseball-Reference**

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