Should Astros trade Kyle Tucker to acquire pitching help?

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 07: Kyle Tucker #3 of the Houston Astros singles to right field in the seventh inning for his first major league hit against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on July 7, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JULY 07: Kyle Tucker #3 of the Houston Astros singles to right field in the seventh inning for his first major league hit against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on July 7, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros have a very interesting decision to make, and that decision is whether to trade Kyle Tucker.

William Shakespeare was once quoted, stating “to trade Kyle Tucker or not to trade Kyle Tucker, that is the question.”

I’m almost certain that is what he said. You can’t change my mind.

Fast forward to 2019, the Houston Astros are sitting on the precipitous of Tucker’s stock. The sought-after hitter is 22 years old. Multiple teams have inquired and demanded that he be part of any deals during this trade deadline season. His name was swirled around in the offseason when the Astros were on the cusp of trading for J.T. Realmuto.

The number eight overall prospect has had an up and down year so far in 2019. Fluctuating between a .250 and .280 average throughout the year, he has shown his plus power by slugging a career-high 27 homers for the Express. Add on the 23 stolen bases and Tucker has shown what he could do in the majors.

That is where the ultimate question comes in. Do the Astros even have a spot for Tucker in this lineup? And if they do not, why hold on to this commodity longer and delay his big league contributions?

Where does Tucker fit?

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It’s such a tricky question, and really it’s such a tricky scenario. On one hand, you have a potential 20-20 hitter waiting in the wings, one that could replace Josh Reddick if need be. However, Reddick has done nothing to prove he doesn’t belong in this lineup and is tied up for an additional season with a pretty hefty contract. Reddick is also a maestro in the field, stealing multiple would-be-home runs this year and having a cannon in right field.

The other option is Michael Brantley. Uncle Mike has been on a renaissance this year and is newly acquired, so it would make little sense to move him out of the lineup.

George Springer? While yes, he is up for his last year of arbitration this year, you would be hard pressed to give a reason to not sign him long term, especially since he has now found his power swing. Springer is up to 24 home runs and is on pace to break 35 home runs on the year.

Enter the wild card — Yuli Gurriel, who has been one of the hottest hitters in the month of July. The Astros have instructed the Round Rock Express to try out Tucker at first base in an attempt to get him in the lineup. Gurriel will be 36 years old this time next year and is controllable for the next two years.

This becomes the only feasible option. However, the Astros would have to make the decision to either take Gurriel out of the lineup and platoon him between first and designated hitter or drop him to a bench role.

Unless you find someone to take on Reddick’s contract, the Astros outfield is set for the next two years, at which point Tucker will have eclipsed his 25th birthday. The prospect polish will have rubbed off. Astros fans have seen how this has affected players like J.D. Davis, AJ Reed, Jon Singleton, Mark Appel, the list goes on.

To further this expectation, the longer the Astros hold on to Tucker, the more and more the fans will build up to his debut. Yordan Alvarez was hyped up a great deal, and he came to the plate and answered the call. Will Tucker be able to do the same? And if he does, will the Astros have huge regrets on their plate?

What the Astros can get right now

Let’s play a game of what if. What if the Astros do decide to deal a high profile prospect like Tucker? What could the Astros get for him? Well, if all reports are true, the Astros could in fact get a prolific pitcher in Noah Syndergaard. Ken Rosenthal has a great article about it (subscription needed)

The question becomes, do you value a pitcher who can come in and immediately change this season and help you in October, or do you value a player who will be another added piece in an already stacked line up.

For reference, let’s take a look at Syndergaard’s stats compared to another pitcher who the Astros traded for.

Syndergaard (26) 2019 stats – 4.33 ERA / 126.2 IP / 3.65 FIP / 1.263 WHIP / 9.0 Kper9
Gerrit Cole (26) 2017 stats – 4.26 ERA / 203 IP / 4.08 FIP / 1.251 WHIP / 8.7 Kper9

Cole came over in an offseason trade with the Pirates in 2018. The Astros only had to part ways with Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, Joe Musgrove and Jason Martin (the only prospect that went up north) to get the deal done.

Many will say that’s not much, but deals are different when it’s the trade deadline. General managers are now privy to what Brent Strom and the Astros can do with pitchers. They also know this is a seller’s market, and buyers are needing to pay a premium to get what they want.

What do the Astros do?

The Astros brass and Jeff Luhnow have probably one of their toughest decisions ahead of them. It’s easy to point to a need and say “go get Syndergaard.” The Astros have a need for a pitcher, Cole is set for free agency at the end of the year, Lance McCullers Jr will be coming off a year and a half vacation due to injury, and Corbin Martin and Forrest Whitley have shown they are still a little ways off from contributing at a high level.

If any fan did a little digging, they would see that Seth Beer has been having himself a year, and Abraham Toro, Ross Adolph and Joshua Rojas have also been quietly making claims to be the top hitting prospect within the organization. So shipping off Tucker wouldn’t mean the end of the world.

Contrastly, the Astros could be playing the hardest game of hard-ball anyone has ever seen. Luhnow has proven time and time again that he has the edge over any general manager when it comes to negotiations.

The San Diego Padres are rumored to have already included outfielder Manuel Margot in any trade negotiations for Syndergaard, which may push the Astros’ hand in any direction.

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As the trade deadline nears, all eyes will be on the Astros front office to see what their choice is. Do they make the big splash and make a blockbuster trade? Or do they go with their bargain options, give up minimal prospects and walk away with the second-choice player to make things work? Time will tell, but the smart money would be to deal Tucker while the stock is at a fever pitch and get a piece that you can rely on and build on.