We take a look back at the Houston Astros trade involving Evan Gattis and Mike Foltynewicz.
The Houston Astros made several changes between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, not the least of which was bringing in new manager AJ Hinch. They also made several roster moves to prepare them to contend for the postseason, which they eventually did. One move that seemed curious at the time was a trade with the Braves involving Evan Gattis and Mike Foltynewicz.
On Jan. 14, 2015, the Astros sent Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman to the Braves in exchange for Gattis and James Hoyt. It was met with skepticism at the time, as Foltynewicz was a bright young pitcher, and they’d already traded one of those away in Jarred Cosart just a few months prior.
What the Astros Got
The main return for the Astros was Gattis, who hit 43 home runs in his first two major league seasons with the Braves. They were looking to add more power to the lineup and envisioned him being their primary DH, and he played that role decently over the next few years.
Gattis hit .245/.298/.471 with 96 home runs in his four seasons in Houston. He had 27 homers and 88 RBIs in 2015, plus an incredible 11 triples. He popped a career-high 32 long balls in 2016 and totaled a 109 OPS+ in his time with the Astros. He’s now done playing after not appearing with any team in 2019.
Hoyt spent parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons in the Astros bullpen, plus one brief appearance in 2018. He worked to a 4.40 ERA in 66 appearances, striking out 11.8 batters per nine and posting peripheral stats that put his FIP at 3.84. He was traded to the Indians in July 2018 for minor league reliever Tommy DeJuneas, who struggled mightily in Double-A in 2019.
What the Astros Gave Up
Foltynewicz made 16 relief appearances with the Astros in 2014, his major league debut. The Braves have used him as a starter with unimpressive results, save for one dazzling season. In 2018, he went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts, making the All-Star team and finishing eighth in the Cy Young voting.
That season, however, is the only time he’s made 30 starts or posted an ERA below 4.31. His total over five seasons in Atlanta is a 44-40 record, 4.24 ERA and an adjusted ERA of 99, indicating he’s been right around league average overall.
The Astros drafted Ruiz in the fourth round in 2012, and he eventually rose to top prospect status as a young up-and-coming third baseman. He could never stick in Atlanta, however, as he hit .189/.282/.302 in 72 games over three seasons. The Orioles claimed him off waivers after the 2018 season and he posted a .682 OPS as their third baseman in 2019.
Thurman, the Astros second-round pick in 2013, never reached the majors. He made it as high as Double-A but hasn’t pitched in affiliated ball since 2017.
The Final Verdict
From a WAR perspective, the Astros got 5.3 WAR out of this trade — 5.2 from Gattis and 0.1 from Hoyt. The Braves have totaled 6.3 WAR — 6.6 from Foltynewicz and -0.3 from Ruiz. So from a strict on-field standpoint, the Braves came out ahead, though this trade is far from lopsided.
Hoyt, Ruiz and Thurman basically accounted for nothing on the field, so we can compare Gattis and Foltynewicz directly. Gattis was fairly consistent, though his production dropped off in his final season with the Astros. Foltynewicz hasn’t been consistent at all.
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Gattis settled in as a slightly above-average hitter. He didn’t hit for a high average, play strong defense or draw a lot of walks. But he had some power, although I wouldn’t call it prodigious. Nonetheless, on the whole, he impacted the team in a positive manner and was part of the 2017 World Series team.
Foltynewicz’s ceiling is tantalizingly high, but he’s only reached it in one season. His 2018 season was brilliant, but the rest of the time he’s been maddeningly inconsistent. The Braves still have him, so he could turn this trade more or less in their favor depending on how he does.
The Astros could probably use him at this point thanks to their questionable rotation depth, though they wouldn’t have needed him in previous seasons with as much depth as they had. One wonders if they would’ve acquired Gerrit Cole or signed Charlie Morton if they had Folty on their roster, and that could’ve changed the course of things dramatically.
In the end, I would probably give the Braves a slight edge as the winner on this, but it’s close. They took a player in Gattis who didn’t have a full-time role and had some questions on defense, and they got a couple of top prospects for him. One didn’t pan out, but the other could win a Cy Young if he can put things back together again.
Gattis, meanwhile, was slightly better with Atlanta (.791 OPS, 117 adjusted OPS) than he was with Houston (.769 OPS, 109 adjusted OPS), though not by a whole lot. Like I said, it’s close, but it’s far from a regrettable deal for the Astros.