The Houston Astros are two and a half years into James Click’s tenure as General Manager, and he once again made multiple deals during his second full-season trade deadline. Last year the Astros were focused on trading for pitching, and this year they acquired both pitching and some bats for the lineup.
The jury is still out on his deadline deals this season but we can take into account the trades he made last year (and their results) to determine what kind of GM Click is when it comes to making trades. I have broken down his track record for deadline deals into a few different categories, noting things we have learned and patterns that have emerged, as we examine the deals a week after the 2022 trade deadline.
For the past two trade deadlines, James Click has shown a pattern of having specific goals for his team and aggressively going after them. There is no doubt that the Astros have evaluated their most pressing needs for each of the past few deadlines and actively pursued trades to meet those needs.
Last year, the Astros bullpen was among the worst in the league prior to the deadline, so they went ahead and acquired Yimi Garcia, Phil Maton, Rafael Montero, and Kendall Graveman. The bullpen changed overnight once the deadline passed and Graveman and Maton were crucial in the playoffs for the Astros, helping to lead them to the World Series. The Astros ended up with one of the best bullpens in baseball at the end of 2021 and were a few timely hits away from winning their second-ever championship.
This year the Astros’ old guard has been beaten down by Father Time and struggled to maintain form. Both Yuli Gurriel and Martin Maldonado are in their upper 30s and have struggled mightily at the plate, and no, I wouldn’t say Maldonado “is back” after one hot month since his batting average is still just .183 at the time of writing.
As a result, Click and the Astros’ brass declared there was a need for offense and they fulfilled it, acquiring Christian Vazquez and Trey Mancini (the latter of whom has had an amazing start with Houston). As well, the bullpen this year has been dominant but it lacked an experienced left-hander, so Click traded for Atlanta’s Will Smith (not one of the Men in Black). All needs were fulfilled and Mancini has especially worked wonderfully to date; that is when he gets to play.
Is James Click against making blockbuster trades involving superstar players? The past couple of trade deadlines have had several premium players up for grabs and I’m not sure Click wants to pay the piper. Click values, well…value over big names and big splashes. If you asked any Astros fan and most rumor sources before the most recent deadline, it seemed Josh Bell was inevitably going to be an Astro but the Padres outbid Click (or so it seems). Things could obviously change but next year, I wouldn’t wait around for the Astros to pull off a Justin Verlander or a Randy Johnson-level deal. They seem to favor the value players outside the top tier more often. In that sense, Click is more like a sensible Walmart shopper rather than a Fifth Avenue type of buyer.
Most of the trade deadline deals that go down involve players whose contract ends that season, so it is not unusual by any means that Click has traded for those players almost exclusively. Some GMs do, however, include contact extensions as a part of deals, or trade for players whose contracts extend past the current season. That hasn’t appeared to be Click’s style though. The notable exceptions are Rafael Montero and Will Smith, but Smith has a club option for next year that the Astros could turn down this winter if they wish. Other than that, Click’s deadline acquisitions have almost all been rentals.
This is not to say Click is incapable of anything different at the trade deadline but simply an observation of his trends for the last two trade deadlines (2020 I’m not counting because it was such a strange season). I won’t, however, be counting on any big names to be dealt to the Astros with Click at the helm. Next year, I’ll only be taking Astros rumors seriously if they concern mid-level players until he proves me wrong.