Full Trade –
To HOU: Christian Vazquez
To BOS: Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu
ASTROS GRADE: C+
The Astros were never chasing Cubs star Willson Contreras, but seeing as he didn’t get traded due to Chicago’s lofty asking price, Vazquez definitely ended up being the right player to trade for at catcher. He owns a slash line of .282/.327/.432 for an OPS+ of 108, making him one of the better hitting catchers in the game, and he grades out roughly as average in terms of pitch framing (more on his defense, and the trade itself, here).
Vazquez, a Red Sox lifer up to this point, isn’t completely replacing Martin Maldonado on the roster. Part of the reason that the Astros never sought an all-star to improve their offense at the position is because they felt Maldonado had earned playing time for what he contributes to the team aside from his bat, so the two figure to split duties the rest of the way, as expected when news first broke that the Astros asked about Vazquez. The exact percentage of playing time Vazquez will get is unknown at this time.
To get him, the Astros gave up 2 position player prospects that were ranked 28th and 29th in their system before the trade. Enmanuel Valdez, a swiss army knife in the field, is destroying the ball in the minors with an OPS over 1.000 and 21 home runs between AA and AAA. He will slot in with the Red Sox AAA affiliate and at age 23, he quickly becomes one of the most exciting young hitters in their pipeline. Wilyer Abreu, also age 23, has been no slouch himself at AA with 15 home runs and an .858 OPS in 89 games.
That seems like an enormous overpay for a rental catcher at first, but there is some logic to it. Since both those prospects signed in their mid-teens as international signings, and more than 5 years have elapsed since then, they are now eligible for the rule-5 draft that happens in the offseason. With the way Valdez is hitting at AAA, he almost certainly would’ve been taken, so the front office likely felt that they were going to lose at least one of them anyway and got something in return while they could. They had to sacrifice two talented prospects to get Vazquez, but there’s sound reasoning behind it, and the Astros got a much-needed offensive boost at the catcher position.