The 2017 trade deadline for the Houston Astros was far from stellar and was not the grand experience the team’s fan base was hoping for. Many experts and insiders believed that some sort of deal would be made for either a dominant starting pitcher or an effective arm out of the bullpen. I, personally, assumed that the Astros would dump some of the positions that are stockpiled in the minors, such as third base and outfield. But then the injury bug hit the Astros.
In the first three weeks after the All Star break, the Astros lost two of their key figures, Carlos Correa and George Springer, to injury. These two players account for 47 home runs and 133 runs batted in. The injury to Correa forced the Astros to move third baseman Alex Bregman to shortstop and bring up Colin Moran on July 18th. Moran has been in Houston’s farm system since 2014. He is stuck behind Bregman with a slim chance to ever solidify a starting role. However, he didn’t get to make the most of his call up, as he fractured bones in his face a few games into his stint. Much like the injury to Correa, Springer’s injury allowed another minor league prospect to get a chance to demonstrate his talents at the big league level. Derrick Fisher was lucky enough to get the call up on July 25th. Fisher, like Moran, is a young and promising prospect who has been in the Astros’ system since 2014. Also similar to Moran, Fisher has found how difficult clawing his way out of the minors is due to Houston’s outfield depth. Houston may have been ready to deal these prospects or others for a much bigger piece, but the injuries created a new necessity for certain players. The team couldn’t trade prospects as freely as before.
Another key component as to why the Astros had a quiet trade deadline is Jeff Lunhow’s ability to seek a deal that’s good for the long run rather than the short term. Lunhow refuses to overhaul the gold mine he has in the minor league system for only one asset, such as a Chris Sale type player. Before the 2017 season even began, the White Sox had a deal in place with the Stros to send out five prospects for the ace Chris Sale. However, the deal collapsed because of Lunhow’s refusal to ship out top prospects Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.
The same goes with the 2017 trade deadline. Reports have surfaced throughout the internet that the team had a deal in place with the Baltimore Orioles to acquire a left handed reliever, Zach Britton. The two sides had agreed on a deal until the Orioles owner stepped in. Baltimore’s owner wanted to get much more in return from the Astros. He was attempting to obtain more than the originally arraigned 2 or 3 prospects.
Lunhow, unlike many General Managers, views running the team from a long term viewpoint instead of a short term. His stance on running the organization seemingly has always been based on the future instead of the now or never type mindset. Jeff was there for the years of tanking. He understands how crucial a farm system is for long term success. Jeff seems to want to bring multiple championships to Houston instead of just one this season. He has built up the roster over the past 5 seasons, from a powerhouse at losing, to a true dynasty that is attempting to be a power in the American League for years to come.
The Houston Astros have drafted incredibly well over the past 5 seasons since Crane and Lunhow took over in 2011. They draft high-rated prospects annually and stockpile them instead of dumping them off at the deadline for an over priced commodity. That is and always has been the game plan under this new regime. The Astros front office appears to be prepared for upcoming expiring contracts. One could assume that keeping all of these prospects is a part of the grand plan for the team on the off chance that they won’t be able to resign key players. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel are cornerstones in the current Astros clubhouse. Altuve is a free agent in 2018. Springer is arbitration eligible in 2018, but not a free agent until 2021. Keuchel is arbitration eligible for one more year, yet not a free agent until 2019. And Correa isn’t arbitration eligible until 2019 and a free agent in 2022. These four key pieces helped kick start the rebuild of the Astros and the team seems to be positioning itself for the opportunity of Springer to test Free Agency. Everyone knows that Altuve plans on being an Astro for life, which means that Correa should be as well. The two have a very strong friendship on and off the field. They should be turning double plays for years to come. This gives Springer the possibility to go and see what type of money he could garner from other teams. The team seems to be ready for such a thing, not only with Springer, but also with Dallas Keuchel. The Astros have tons of outfield prospects ready to fill Springer’s position if he is to leave. The same goes with the young pitching prospects we have drafted over the past three seasons. The Astros are always attempting to be prepared for the worst or best case scenarios.
Houston Astros fans need to keep the faith in Jeff Lunhow and hope his plans for our roster truly are what is best for the team. Crane and Lunhow have done a great job rebuilding the team they were given. The front office has always looked out for the team’s future while balancing the present during their era. We need to believe in their strategy and efforts to bring the franchise the ever-so coveted championship season.