Astros: Reviewing the 1997 Moises Alou trade with Marlins

We take a look back at the trade bringing Moises Alou to the Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros won their first NL Central division title in 1997, but they weren’t satisfied. After getting swept out of the NLDS, GM Gerry Hunsicker took advantage of the World Champion Florida Marlins’ fire sale, trading for All-Star outfielder Moises Alou.

On Nov. 11, 1997, the Astros acquired Alou for pitchers Manuel Barrios and Oscar Henriquez and a player to be named later, who turned out to be pitcher Mark Johnson. The Marlins traded away the likes of Alou, Kevin Brown, Robb Nen, Al Leiter, Jeff Conine and Devon White that offseason.

What the Astros Got

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Alou was already a two-time All-Star with a pair of Top-10 MVP finishes to his name. He was 31 and coming off a season in which he hit .292/.373/.493 with 29 doubles, 23 homers and 115 RBIs. He was also under contract for four more seasons.

In his first year in Houston, Alou hit .312/.399/.582 with 34 doubles, 38 homers and 124 RBIs, finishing third in the MVP voting. He missed all of 1999 due to injury but came back to hit .355/.416/.623 in 2000 and .331/.396/.554 in 2001. He made two All-Star teams in his three Astros seasons and received MVP votes in all three, finishing with a ridiculous .988 OPS.

What the Astros Gave Up

Barrios had appeared in two games for the Astros in 1997, allowing four runs in three innings. Following the trade, he made just two appearances for the Marlins before being included in the massive trade that sent Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla to the Dodgers and Mike Piazza back to Florida. He made one appearance for the Dodgers and never played in the majors again.

Henriquez pitched in four games in 1997, allowing two runs in four innings. He made 15 appearances for the Marlins in 1998, pitching to an 8.55 ERA. He resurfaced with the Tigers in 2002, but that would be his final season in the major leagues.

Johnson never appeared in the majors with the Marlins. He was traded to the Yankees in the Mike Lowell deal in 1999, then taken by the Tigers in the Rule 5 Draft later that year. He made nine appearances for Detroit in 2000, pitching to a 7.50 ERA. That would be the extent of his major league career.

The Final Verdict

This one’s a pretty easy grade. Alou was worth 11.8 WAR in his three seasons in Houston. The Marlins got 0.1 WAR from Barrios, -0.8 WAR from Henriquez and nothing from Johnson. For a team trying to rebuild through a fire sale, this wasn’t a good way to do it.

The Astros gave up a trio of middling pitchers and got a perennial All-Star who helped make the team’s offense one of the best in the league during his time in Houston. Alou had some of his best years here, including a ridiculous 2000 season that’s often underappreciated.

Hunsicker is one of the best GMs this franchise has employed, and this is one of the many reasons why. The Astros got an absolute steal in this trade.

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