Astros improve at deadline, show belief in young center fielders

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 03: Trey Mancini #26 of the Houston Astros hits a two run home run in the second inning against the Boston Red Soxat Minute Maid Park on August 03, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) (Bob Levey, 2022 Getty Images)

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Hey guys, it’s Ari freshly coming out of my trade deadline bunker where I spent the past week or so glued to my phone, texting with a number of MLB sources to try to figure out JUST WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE ASTROS AT THE DEADLINE!?

James Click told us a couple weeks ago that Jim Crane wanted him to be aggressive, and that Click planned to be aggressive. He delivered.

The Astros filled three of their four clear gaps in the deadline and gave up no more than an extra starting pitcher and a center fielder with very specific value, plus a few prospects who were unlikely to significantly contribute to the Astros anytime soon.

WHAT THEY GOT

Very simply, the Astros ended up with:

- A versatile right-handed bat in Trey Mancini, who can play a bit of 1st Base and Left Field.

- A backup/platoon catcher with a World Series ring in former Red Sox starter Christian Vazquez.

- Finally, a high end left-handed option in the bullpen in Will Smith, who helped contribute to Houston’s demise in last year’s World Series.

WHAT THEY GAVE UP

- I won’t get into the three prospects because none of them were consensus Top 10 or played positions of immediate need for the Astros.

- Center Fielder Jose Siri, who had lost favor with the Astros after he showboated a home run against the New York Mets and was sent down to Triple-A.

- Jake Odorizzi, whose inconsistency along with Houston’s strength in the starting rotation made him expendable.

THE ANALYSIS

With Michael Brantley slowly (and I mean slowly) returning from a shoulder injury, Trey Mancini will get some time in left field, limiting Yordan Alvarez’s field exposure and Chas McCormick’s (somehow?) weaker defensive position. Mancini will also get to play some first base, spelling Yuli Gurriel who has largely struggled this season.

Will Smith finally gives Houston a high leverage lefty option, and takes Smith out of the closer role, where he’s not particularly suited. Smith was having a down year in Atlanta, but Houston is known for finding the right mix for new pitchers.

Lastly, Christian Vazquez adds an improved bat to lengthen the lineup on days Martin Maldonado isn’t catching. Vazquez is a far more stable option than either of Houston’s prospects (Korey Lee and Yainer Diaz), and came cheap as a rental.

None of the three players acquired are likely to stick around past this season, although Smith has a team option for $13 million, which is nearly as much as closer Ryan Pressly makes. Smith’s option is unlikely to be picked up.

Mancini holds a $10 million *mutual* option for 2023, and it’s far too early to tell what will happen there. Houston has a need at both positions Mancini plays, as both Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley are free agents after 2022. Gurriel would be 39 and Brantley would be 36 in 2023, so a reunion with Mancini (based on his play and clubhouse fit) may make sense.

Otherwise, J.J. Matijevic and Chas McCormick would get significant playing time in 2023 unless Houston shops in the free agent market for someone like Josh Bell and a starting outfielder.

In center field, it’ll be a split between Jake Meyers (who has been struggling mightily) and Chas McCormick (who has actually played well of late and is a stronger center fielder than left fielder, per imperfect fielding metrics).

The center field specific options on the market were thin (Royals OF Michael A. Taylor would have been a nice fit), and Houston decided to make the move for a lefty reliever instead of filling center field.

Long term, this team got better for the playoffs and they still have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, which will soon return to 6 men when Lance McCullers comes back within the next few weeks.


About the Author:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.