An interesting trade took place in the summer of 2012 between the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays.
The majority of the participants in the trade do not matter much to the Astros today. In fact, it took J.A. Happ a second time around in Toronto to be a good pitcher for the Blue Jays. Thank you, Ray Searage, the pitching coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
No, the player that matters the most for Houston is Joe Musgrove. He, in fact, could make this trade a win for the Stros five years later.
The Astros are presumptive contenders in 2017. Outside of the Texas Rangers discovering another way to outperform their projections, Houston possesses a good chance of winning the AL West.
However, this Houston team needs quality pitching. That’s not an uncommon statement, though. All contenders need quality pitching from one degree to another. That’s where you enter Musgrove, the pitcher who reportedly cost the Astros Jose Quintana this winter.
So why should the Astros roll with him in 2017?
Based on the results last season and his progress this Spring, it’s easy to see why people are high on Musgrove’s potential. Myself included.
2016 Statistics: 62 IP, 4.06 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 7.98 K/9
These aren’t lofty figures by any extent. However, the numbers do offer hope that a 24-year old could be at least a useful major league starting pitcher. Those don’t come around as often as people hope.
The other pitcher in this equation is veteran Mike Fiers, who was also acquired by the Astros via trade. A much more lopsided trade, but a trade nonetheless.
Fiers threw 168.2 innings for the Astros last season in all but one start. He posted a pedestrian 4.48 ERA and a 4.43 FIP. Not great numbers by any extent. However, you could do much worse from your fifth starter in the starting rotation.
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Unlike Musgrove though, Fiers is already on the other side of thirty. The soon-to-be 32-year old has been a workhorse in the past two seasons with 60 combined starts, and 249 innings pitched. Even if you remove Fiers from the rotation, he would still be valuable as the stretch man in the bullpen. Nowadays, it is foolish to think you can get by with just five starting pitchers all season long.
The 2016 season was also not Fiers’ best defense for keeping a starting rotation job. Outside of the 2.86 ERA in June, the former Milwaukee Brewer did not post an ERA lower than 3.97 in each month. And this point really isn’t meant to smear Fiers. No, I am simply asking if Musgrove would offer the most upside in the starting rotation.
At the end of the day, Musgrove may not pitch better than Fiers in a full season as a starting pitcher. Or he could. The upside though is undeniable. He has pitched well in Spring Training with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. Otherwise, the White Sox wouldn’t have been so insistent that the Astros trade him in the package for Quintana. I say roll with Musgrove going into the season.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and MLB.com**