As the Astros look to make offseason moves, top prospects Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley should be off limits.
The rumor mill is starting to churn now that the 2018 season is over. The Astros are in need of some roster upgrades, specifically at catcher and in the starting rotation. While they’ll certainly kick the tires on some trade candidates, other teams will be looking for top talent in return.
The team’s two best trade pieces are outfielder Kyle Tucker and pitcher Forrest Whitley. Neither should be included in any deal (unless the Astros trade for, say, Mike Trout). Not all fans may agree, but to me, these two are untouchable.
Rough Start for Tucker
Many fans are already giving up on Tucker thanks to his rough MLB debut. He slashed .141/.236/.203 in 72 plate appearances for the Astros and failed to hit his first home run. But it’s far too early to give up on the guy.
As CTH’s Cody Poage examined, Tucker was hampered by some bad luck in his run with the Astros. This is just his first taste of the bigs, and his Triple-A numbers (.332/.400/.590) show there’s plenty of talent there. He’s still just 21 and has room for growth.
Tucker is and should be the team’s presumptive Opening Day left fielder. Trading him to fill one need would open up another. No matter how good of a player the Astros are getting, it’s not worth trading a future cornerstone like Tucker.
Ace in the Making?
Whitley is the future of the Astros rotation. He just turned 21 and has averaged 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor league career. He has all the makings of a future ace, which the team needs. Justin Verlander won’t be there forever.
Barring injury, Whitley seems likely to make his major league debut sometime in 2019. With all the uncertainty surrounding the Astros rotation right now, he represents quality depth with a truckload of upside. That’s not something smart teams trade away.
A big reason why it’s important to keep Tucker and Whitley is they’ll be cheap for a few years. The Astros just handed out a big extension to Jose Altuve. George Springer and Gerrit Cole could be next, followed by Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. The team’s core will be expensive to retain.
If the team also has two young All-Star caliber players in Tucker and Whitley on the roster, it’ll make it easier to continue to field a competitive team. They won’t have to shell out big dollars to veteran players to fill those spots if they’ve got young talent on board already.
Plenty of Options Available
The Astros have often been linked to Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. He would be a great addition to the club, and the team will undoubtedly make a run at him. But if a deal can’t get done without Tucker or Whitley, it’s not the end of the world.
Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal are free agents, and the team could always bring back Martin Maldonado. Max Stassi is on hand, and they just added Chris Herrmann. It’s not Realmuto or bust, nor should it be.
Sometimes a team can be too protective of its prospects, but these are two guys the organization believes in. They can be franchise cornerstones for years to come, and the Astros would be foolish to trade that away for Realmuto or anyone not named Trout.