What the Astros Got
At the time of the trade, Ausmus was a 27-year-old catcher who put up a strong 1995 season but struggled at the plate in a 1996 season split between the Padres and Tigers. The Astros needed an upgrade behind the dish, and he provided that with solid defense and batting averages of .266 and .269 in two seasons.
Interestingly, the Astros traded Ausmus back to the Tigers along with Nitkowski prior to the 1999 season. Then Ausmus was traded back the Astros along with Brocail after the 2000 season. All told, he spent 10 seasons in Houston and won three Gold Glove Awards.
Lima was a young right-hander whose best major league season was 1996 in which he’d posted a 5.70 ERA. But he quickly blossomed into one of the franchise’s most beloved players, winning 16 games in 1998 and 21 games in 1999 as “Lima Time” took off. He wasn’t able to sustain the success, unfortunately, but that doesn’t take away from what he brought to this team.
Trever Miller actually didn’t pitch in the majors in 1997, but he returned in 1998 to post a 3.04 ERA out of the bullpen. He pitched to a 5.07 ERA in 1999 and then was traded to the Phillies prior to the 2000 season. He would return to Houston in 2006 and 2007 to put up a pair of solid seasons as a lefty specialist.
Nitkowski hadn’t found success in the majors yet and thus spent all of 1997 at Triple-A. But he posted a 3.77 ERA out of the Astros bullpen in 1998 before being shipped back to the Tigers along with Ausmus. He ultimately played for eight teams in a 10-season major league career.
Ward hadn’t yet made his major league debut, but finally did when he made four plate appearances in 1998. In the ensuing four seasons, he was a part-time first baseman/corner outfielder and pinch hitter extraordinaire, compiling a .269/.316/.465 line with 49 homers and 188 RBIs for the Astros. He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 2003 season.