We take a look back at the Houston Astros trade for Dexter Fowler in 2013.
In one of the more curious sagas in recent Astros history, the team acquired outfielder Dexter Fowler from the Rockies and then traded him away a year later. He was neither bad nor exceptionally good in his one year in Houston, and the team made the playoffs the year after they traded him away.
Fowler would have been a good player to have on that 2015 playoff team, but GM Jeff Luhnow went for more power in the lineup. The initial trade, however, took place on Dec. 3, 2013, in which the Astros sent Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes to Colorado in exchange for Fowler.
They traded him away a little more than a year later to get Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily from the Cubs, but that’s a subject for another day. We’ll limit this review to the trade that brought Fowler to Houston in the first place.
What the Astros Got
Fowler had hit a combined .270/.365/.423 in six seasons with the Rockies. He totaled 50 triples in a four-season span from 2009 to 2012, and though he didn’t offer much power or steal a ton of bases, he was a solid all-around player to have.
In his one Houston season of 2014, he hit .276/.375/.399 with 21 doubles, eight homers and 35 RBIs in 116 games. He was solid at the plate, but the defensive WAR metric was not kind to him, resulting in a total of 1.8 WAR for the season.
What the Astros Gave Up
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Lyles, a first round pick in the 2008 draft, was the young pitcher the Rockies wanted, but he’d only pitched to a 5.35 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Astros. He wasn’t much better in Colorado, totaling a 5.22 ERA in four seasons before being released in Aug. 2017.
Barnes was a sixth-round pick in 2005 and totaled a .233/.282/.330 line in parts of two seasons in Houston. He spent three seasons in Denver and hit .249/.295/.376 before being released in 2016.
The Final Verdict
The Rockies got a total of 0.1 WAR from Lyles and -0.7 WAR from Barnes, for a total of -0.6 WAR. The Astros got 1.8 WAR from Fowler, so they’re the clear on-field winner of this trade. They’re the winner in pretty much every way, really.
Lyles had promise, but he never lived up to it. The Astros sold high on a couple of young players to get a solid major leaguer in return. The fact that they only kept him for one year doesn’t really matter. This was a clear win for Luhnow.
Fowler’s defensive shortcomings, however, prevented him from graduating into the elite threshold of MLB players. He’s been below average in terms of defensive WAR in all but two of his 12 major league seasons, and his year with the Astros was actually his worst in that regard.
Still, this trade was a win for Houston, even if they didn’t keep Fowler around for when the team was ready to contend.