The long-term value versus short-term gain
The crux in most trade discussions is the determination of long-term value versus short-term gain. For Houston, Paxton would’ve checked off a box in the short-term box as he is under contract through the 2020 season. A hypothetical 2019 rotation with him, Verlander, and Gerrit Cole could’ve been at top contender-level. Depending on the outcome of Verlander and Cole’s upcoming free agency a year from now, the 30-year old starter would’ve offered a nice buffer in 2020. But the primary concern with Paxton remains his durability as he recently finished with his highest major league inning total in a single season (160 1/3 IP).
Whitley’s long-term value is potentially greater than Paxton’s. It could also finish the other way around. Again, here is where someone inserts something useful about prospects and the risks involved. Pitching prospects, in particular, are a gamble. Pitching, in general, is a gamble as we never know when that arm will finally give out. But Whitley does have future value, if his development doesn’t take another hit. His fastball can reach the high nineties and features some cutting movement. Among his secondary pitches, his curveball is particularly promising as it has shown some nice breaking action. He also features a slider and changeup to round out his arsenal. The stuff is there that makes teams drool over prospects. Again, a gamble, but teams are angling for Whitley in trade negotiations for good reason. At the end of the day, the Astros chose the long-term value over the short-term gain.