Astros: The No-Trade Clause Blues

Oct 11, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is interviewed before game three of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is interviewed before game three of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Safe to say that the Houston Astros front office isn’t fond of no-trade clauses at the moment.

After watching their inter-division rival, the Texas Rangers, improve their ball club in noticeable ways each of the past two trade deadlines, it is understandable why the Houston Astros would have a sour disposition. The fact that Cole Hamels and Jonathan Lucroy weren’t meant to be Rangers at first has to be salt in that gnarly wound.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today had an interesting article that discussed the subject of the Rangers benefiting from the Astros misfortune when it comes to no-trade clauses. General manager Jeff Luhnow had some interesting thoughts on the matter, which I recommend you check out.

Looking back, I would have to say that the Astros have themselves partly to blame for this current situation based on their response.

For example, Jeff Luhnow and his front office was in on Hamels right from the start during last year’s trade deadline. Heck, the Astros were willing to pony up the prospects required to pry away a good starting pitcher from the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies. However, Hamels decided to exercise his no-trade clause, which was well within his rights. The response in not landing Hamels unfortunately turned into Carlos Gomez, who is no longer with the club following his forgettable tenure in Houston.

And while Houston’s front office were just somewhat interested in Lucroy, the organization didn’t appear to be a finalist for the catcher’s services. Unfortunately for the Astros though Lucroy did deny a trade to the Cleveland Indians that established the path for the former All-Star to join up with the Rangers. All the while the Astros stood pat barring a minor deal or two.

But are the no-trade clauses really at fault?

Let’s not forget that the Astros were designed to overtake the Rangers this season. The roster boasted the reigning AL Cy Young, the reigning Rookie of the Year, and one of more promising cores in baseball today. However, regression and injuries across the board poked holes in the Astros grand ship of a plan. The mojo from last season was basically gone.

And once you throw the good fortune (trade and record-wise) your chief rival has experienced over the past 13 months, then yeah, it seems like the world is ending. One direct and indirect transaction that has made the Astros the loser of each deal and made the Rangers look like winners.

But putting all of the blame on the no-trade clause is not the way.

Like I stated above, the Astros response to those developments on the trade market were rather lackluster. However, I did agree with the approach the team took at the deadline this year. And you can’t blame players for making decisions that serve in their best interests. Sometimes their best interests doesn’t align with your favorite baseball team.

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At the end of the day though, the players you have need to get it done. That is where you enter in regression and injuries into the narrative. And trust me, the Astros have had plenty of both as of late.

You can use the Gomez trade as the epitome of the Astros season. It was once started with the highest of expectations, but now is looked upon with strong sense of disappointment. Like the Astros record is nearly .500 at this point, Gomez produced a 0.7 and a -0.7 WAR in his time with Houston.

So basically a wash, right?

Well, except for the fact that it cost the Astros valuable prospects.

The disappointment is a bitter reality at this moment.

I won’t lie though; if the Astros season doesn’t turn around soon then it will serve as a cruel reminder that the best intentions are sometimes a faulty foundation. It is possible that the 2015 deadline and last offseason left the Astros burned on the trade front. When you acquire Gomez, Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers, and Ken Giles in less than one calendar year, you expect more of a return the what you have seen so far.

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The future is still bright. While I won’t parade that the Astros will have the best team, this should be nothing more than a temporary blip on the radar. The young core is still coming into place and there is help coming via the minor leagues and future trades. Their luck should turnaround. That is the hope anyway.

**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference**