July 2012

A look back at two years of Astros trades

With the Trade Deadline over, it’s time to reflect on the deals the Astros have made in the past three seasons. Houston has made a flurry of deadline deals in 2010, ’11 and ’12 as it rebuilds and stockpiles prospects.

In that time span, the Astros said goodbye to, among others, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, Wandy Rodriguez and Chris Johnson.

In the month of July of this year alone, they acquired 13 Minor Leaguers and two players to be named later and were the most active team when it came to trading.

Here’s a look at the major deals the Astros have made in the last two years (you can click on the players’ names for his current stats):

Date: July 29, 2010.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: LHP J.A. Happ, OF Anthony Gose, SS Jonathan Villar.

Phillies receive: RHP Roy Oswalt, cash.

The skinny: Oswalt had requested a trade after being frustrated with how the Astros were playing. The Astros obliged, getting a low-cost starting pitcher in Happ and a pair of prospects. Gose was immediately shipped to the Blue Jays, and Villar remains one of the team’s top prospects, though he recently broke his hand punching a door.

Date: July 29, 2010.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: IF Brett Wallace.

Blue Jays receive: OF Anthony Gose.

The skinny: After acquiring Gose from the Phillies, the Astros immediately turned around and dealt him to the Jays in exchange for Wallace. Considering Wallace was a first baseman, that began speculation that Lance Berkman was on his way out the door.

Date: July 31, 2010.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: RHP Mark Melancon, IF Jimmy Paredes.

Yankees receive: 1B Lance Berkman, cash.

The skinny: Berkman had the right to approve any trade, and when the Astros came to him and said they possibly had a deal with the Yanks, he didn’t stand in Houston’s way of getting more young players. Berkman didn’t do much with the Yankees, and Melancon wound up taking over as closer in 2011 before later being shipped to Boston. Paredes has moved around the infield, but he’s one of the most athletic players in the system and is putting up stellar numbers in Triple-A this year.

Date: Dec. 23, 2010.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: LHP Wes Musick, RHP Jonnathan Aristil.

Rockies receive: RHP Matt Lindstrom.

The skinny: Lindstrom pitched one year in Houston and was inconsistent while battling to stay healthy, so the Astros spun him to Colorado and took a flier on a pair of Minor League pitchers.

Date: July 19, 2011.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: RHP Henry Sosa, RHP Jason Stoffel.

Giants receive: IF Jeff Keppinger.

The skinny: Keppinger was a solid hitter who performed well in Houston, but with the club in rebuilding mode, the Astros dealt him for a pair of Minor League arms. Sosa wound up pitching in the Astros’ rotation last year, but is now playing in Korea. Stoffel is closing at Double-A and has some potential.

Date: July 29, 2011.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: RHP Jarred Cosart, IF Jonathan Singleton, RHP Josh Zeid, player to be named later (OF Domingo Santana).

Phillies receive: OF Hunter Pence.

The skinny: Pence was Houston’s best hitter and due to receive a big raise in arbitration, which really didn’t make much sense for the Astros considering the direction the club was going. Thus, the popular outfielder was sent to the contending Phillies, who paid a high price. Cosart and Singleton became Houston’s top two prospects, and some scouts believed Santana might wind up being the best player in the deal. Pence was traded by the Phillies to the Giants a year later.

Date: July 31, 2011.

General manager: Ed Wade.

Astros receive: OF Jordan Schafer, RHP Juan Abreu, RHP Paul Clemens, LHP Brett Oberholtzer.

Braves receive: CF Michael Bourn.

The skinny: Two days after trading Pence to the Phillies, the Astros traded another popular player by sending Houston native Bourn, a Gold Glove outfielder who had come into his own offensively, to the Braves. The haul wasn’t quite as impressive as what the Astros got in return for Pence, but the three Minor League arms have some promise. Schafer hasn’t lived up to potential.

Date: Dec. 14, 2011.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: SS Jed Lowrie, RHP Kyle Weiland.

Red Sox receive: RHP Mark Melancon.

The skinny: Luhnow’s first trade as GM appears to be a good one for the Astros, though both Lowrie and Weiland are on the disabled list (Weiland is out for the year). There were questions about Melancon’s ability to close, and he was a disaster in Boston. Lowrie was one of the most productive shortstops in the NL before he injured his leg in July.

Date: March 21, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: LHP Kevin Chapman, player to be name named later (OF D’Andre Toney).

Royals receive: C Humberto Quintero, OF Jason Bourgeois.

The skinny: Quintero and Bourgeois were back-ups who couldn’t crack the starting lineup of a last-place team, and Luhnow managed to trade them for two Minor Leaguers. Chapman has shown some early promise at Double-A, while Toney could be one to watch years down the road. Bourgeois wound up in the Minors with the Royals, who soon cut Quintero.

Date: July 4, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: IF Matt Dominguez, LHP Rob Rasmussen.

Marlins receive: 1B Carlos Lee, cash.

The skinny: The first of five major trades in July, the Marlins were desperate for first base help and gave the Astros two Minor League players for the aging slugger. The Astros were happy to get him off their roster, and were even willing to pay the bulk of his remaining contract. Dominguez was brought up to the Majors, but was sent back down a few days later.

Date: July 20, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: RHP Francisco Cordero, OF Ben Francisco, RHP Asher Wojciechowski, RHP Joe Musgrove, LHP David Rollins, C Carlos Perez, a player to be named later.

Blue Jays receive: LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP David Carpenter.

The skinny: The Astros acquired seven players, including four Minor Leaguers and a player to be named later, in a 10-player deal with the Jays. Happ had been with the team two years and could never gain consistency, while Lyon was in the final year of his three-year deal. This trade was more about the Minor League arms the Astros received, while addressing a catching shortage in the system, more than it was about the two big league players they received – Cordero and Francisco.

Date: July 21, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: RHP Matthew Heidenreich, LHP Blair Walters, a player to be named later.

White Sox receive: RHP Brett Myers, cash.

The skinny: With Myers having a good shot at vesting his 2013 option that would have paid him $10 million, the Astros sent him to the White Sox and stockpiled a few more Minor League arms. Myers was having a solid season as closer after starting 66 games the previous two years in Houston.

Date: July 25, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive: LHP Rudy Owens, OF Robbie Grossman, LHP Colton Cain.

Pirates receive: LHP Wandy Rodriguez, cash.

The skinny: The rebuilding effort continued as the Astros sent Rodriguez – the last remaining member from the 2005 World Series team – to the Pirates for three more prospects. The Astros had to pay a substantial part of Rodriguez’s remaining contract, but they felt getting more prospect was worth the price.

Date: July 29, 2012.

General manager: Jeff Luhnow.

Astros receive:  IF Bobby Borchering, OF Marc Krauss.

D-backs receive: 3B Chris Johnson.

The skinny: The Astros pulled off their fifth trade of the month. Houston wasn’t actively shopping Johnson, but he had recently gone on a tear and some teams were getting aggressive in their pursuit of the 27-year-old third baseman. Unlike the previous trades in July in which the Astros stockpiled the pitching, the Johnson trade brought a pair of bats, and in the case of Borchering, maybe some much-needed power to the system.

Astros keep on dealing, send Johnson to Arizona

The Astros traded third baseman Chris Johnson to the D-backs on Sunday in exchange for Minor League infielder Bobby Borchering and outfielder  Marc Krauss.

“It was pretty emotional in the room when I got called in,” said Johnson, who was drafted by the Astros in the fourth round in the 2006 Draft. “I knew when they called me out of the cage something had happened. We knew there were 26 guys here today and there had to be a roster move.

“This is tough. This is all I’ve known since 2006 when I was drafted. I called this place home and I moved here. It’s definitely tough, but that’s the way the game goes. I’m excited to move on to the Arizona Diamondbacks.”

Borchering, 21, was the D-backs first pick in the 2009 MLB First Year Player Draft while Krauss, 24, was taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft.

Borchering (6-3, 200) has played in 102 games combined at Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile  in 2012, tallying 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 68 RBI. In 2011, he had 29 doubles, 24 homers and 92 RBI for Visalia. He attended Bishop Verot High School, the same high school Johnson attended years earlier

Krauss (6-2, 230) hit .283 in 104 games at Mobile with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs with a .416 on-base pct. and a .509 slugging percentage. Krauss, who was invited to the D-backs Major League camp in Spring Training this year, was a California League All-Star in 2012 at Visalia after hitting .302 in 138 games with 27 doubles, 25 home runs, 87 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage.

Johnson hit .279 in 92 games for the Astros this season with eight home runs and 41 RBIs.

– Brian McTaggart

Astros make several roster moves, add Pearce

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow announced Saturday that the club has claimed infielder Steve Pearce off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. Pearce will report to the Major League club on Sunday, at which time the Astros will make a corresponding roster move.

The Astros also officially purchased the contract of right-handed pitcher Armando Galarraga from Triple-A Oklahoma City. To make room for Galarraga on the active roster, the club optioned left-handed pitcher Fernando Abad to Triple-A. To make room for Pearce and Galarraga on the 40-man roster, the Astros outrighted right-handed pitchers Enerio Del Rosario and Aneury Rodriguez to Oklahoma City. Both players cleared waivers and will join the RedHawks.

Pearce, 28, was hitting .254 with four doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 28 games for Baltimore this season. He was designated for assignment last Sunday. The right-handed hitting corner infielder and outfielder began the regular season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the New York Yankees organization, where he hit .318 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 53 games before being traded to Baltimore on June 2.

Pearce has spent parts of each of the last six seasons in the Majors with Pittsburgh (2007-11) and Baltimore (2012) and has played in 213 Major League games.

Galarraga, 30, owns a 3-2 record and a 3.97 ERA in 10 starts in the Astros Minor League system this season (nine with Oklahoma City, one with Class A Lexington). The veteran right-hander was signed by Houston as a Minor League free agent on May 21.

He began his year in the Baltimore organization before being released following Spring Training. Galarraga, who will start for Houston tonight, owns a 26-30 Major League record with a 4.69 ERA in 95 games (86 starts) across parts of five seasons with Texas (2007), Detroit (2008-10) and Arizona (2011).

Abad, 26, has posted a 3.86 ERA in 30 appearances for the Astros this season. This is his second option to Oklahoma City in 2012, where he owns a 1-0 record with two saves and a 0.00 ERA in seven appearances. Abad owns a career record of 1-5 with a 4.65 ERA in 81 appearances over the last three seasons with Houston.

Del Rosario, 26, was optioned to Oklahoma City yesterday before being outrighted today. He owns a 7.80 ERA in 15 relief appearances for the Astros this season. Other than a month-long DL stint, Del Rosario spent the entire 2011 campaign on Houston’s roster, posting a 4.58 ERA in 54 relief appearances. He has a career 1-4 record with a 5.19 ERA in 80 Major League appearances with Cincinnati (2010) and Houston (2010-12).

Rodriguez, 24, has spent the majority of his season with Oklahoma City, where’s gone 3-7 with a 6.67 ERA in 23 games (13 starts). He made one start for the Astros on May 8 vs. Miami, tossing six innings, allowing two runs on two hits. The Astros 2010 Rule 5 Draft pick spent all of the 2011 season with the Astros, posting a 1-6 record and a 5.27 ERA  in 43 appearances, including eight starts.

With the moves, the Astros 40-man roster remains full.

Astros claim Steve Pearce off waivers

The Astros have claimed infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce off waivers from Baltimore, a source told MLB.com.

Pearce, 29, is a career .235 hitter with 12 homers and 66 RBIs in 536 Major League at-bats. He played with the Pirates from 2008-11 and appeared in 28 games this year for the Orioles, hitting .254 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 71 at-bats.

A right-handed hitter, Pearce can play the corner outfield spots and first base.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t want to comment.

Pearce was flying to Houston on Saturday night and could be activated prior to Sunday’s game against the Pirates. The Astros would need to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make room for Pearce.

Astros lineup Thursday vs. Pirates

The Astros send rookie lefty Dallas Keuchel to the mound tonight against the Pirates trying to snap a nine-game losing streak.

Astros lineup:

2B Jose Altuve

SS Marwin Gonzalez

CF Justin Maxwell

1B Scott Moore

LF J.D. Martinez

3B Chris Johnson

RF Brian Bogusevic

C Carlos Corporan

P Dallas Keuchel

Luhnow excited to add more talent to system

More has been written about the players the Astros have dealt in the past few weeks, proven veterans like Brett Myers, Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, than the bushel of players the Astros have gotten in return.

That’s natural when you consider the prospects the team has acquired are unknown commodities, but general manager Jeff Luhnow likes what the Astros were able to do in Tuesday’s trade of Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates.

The Astros sent Rodriguez to the Pirates and acquired left-handed pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman. Owens is on the 40-man roster and headed to Triple-A Oklahoma City, Grossman is going to Double-A Corpus Christi and Cain is headed to Class A Lancaster.

In all, the Astros have acquired 11 Minor League players and two players to be named later in four July trades.

“We’ve accumulated quite a lot of talent in our system, and it’s everywhere – from rookie ball to Triple-A – and we feel good about that,” Luhnow said.

Owens, 24, has posted an 8-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has 85 strikeouts and has walked only 25 in his 117 1/3 innings pitched. Owens, who will join the club’s 40-man roster, was Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010.

“To have a left-handed starting pitcher that’s that close to the big leagues is huge for us,” Luhnow said.

Grossman, 22, was hitting .262 with 20 doubles, seven home runs, 35 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage in 94 games for Double-A Altoona this season. Primarily a center fielder, Grossman was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year last year after hitting .294 and leading the Florida State League with 124 runs scored and 104 walks in 134 games.  The switch-hitting Grossman is currently ranked by MLB.com as Pittsburgh’s No. 7 prospect. He was originally a sixth-round selection in the 2008 Draft out of Cy-Fair High School in Houston.

“Grossman has a unique ability to get on base, and it’s something we’ve always liked,” Luhnow said. “He did it in high school when he was here in Houston and he’s done it his entire career. He really profiles as a good, plus center fielder who can lead off and get on base at a high clip.

“Something we’ve stressed all year with this club is pitch selection and not chasing and getting on base and doing the things that set up for big innings. We’ve done better, but we haven’t executed that as well as I would like to see. We’re doing a lot of reenforcing of that playing style in the Minor Leagues, and so we get someone who excels in that. He’s the first Minor League player to have 100 walks and 100 runs since Nick Swisher, who’s well-known for that kind of stuff. He has tremendous offensive upside for us and can play defense.”

Cain, 21, is 3-5 this season with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League. He has allowed just a .242 opponent’s batting average, including a .226 mark against right-handed hitters. A graduate of Waxahachie High School in Texas, Cain was considered one of the top high school players in the state before being selected by Pittsburgh in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft.

Wandy on his way to Pittsburgh

Wandy Rodriguez, the last remnant from the Astros’ 2005 National League championship team, was shipped to the Pirates on Tuesday night in the latest of a flurry of deals Houston has made this month.

Rodriguez told MLB.com getting traded was difficult, especially when he went into the dugout and hugged teammates and coaches before leaving the ballpark. He’ll join the Pirates when they arrive in Houston on Thursday.

“I feel like I could cry,” he said. “It’s a hard situation. We’ve been together for years in Spring Training and through the season and when he I said goodbye to my teammates, it was very emotional.”

Rodriguez, signed by the Astros as an un-drafted free agent in 1999, had been in the organization for more than 13 years.

“I’ve been in this organization for a long time,” he said. “The city and the fans have been great to me.”

That being said, Rodriguez understands the club is headed in a new direction as it rebuilds.

“I understand for the Astros organization, they want young guys,” he said. “Pittsburgh is very, very good and playing really good now.”

The Astros, who also sent cash to the Pirates, also acquired left-handed pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain and outfielder Robbie Grossman. It’s the third trade the Astros have made in a span of five days as they continue to stockpile Minor League talent.

“Wandy has been a terrific pitcher for the Astros for a long time,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Trading a player like Wandy is not easy, but we know this deal is a very good one for us, the Pirates and for Wandy. We thank him for all he has done for the Astros and wish him continued success.”

Rodriguez was 80-83 with a 4.04 ERA in his seven seasons in Houston. He’s struck out more batters than any left-hander in Astros history and is second on the team’s all-time charts among lefties in starts (218), wins and innings pitched (1,306 2/3).

Rodriguez, 33, is making $10 million this season and $13 million next year. There’s a $13 million option for 2014 that essentially kicks because Rodriguez is traded. It’s unknown how much money the Astros are sending in the deal.

Owens, 24, has posted an 8-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has 85 strikeouts and has walked only 25 in his 117 1/3 innings pitched. Owens, who will join the club’s 40-man roster, was Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 and 2010.

Grossman, 22, was hitting .262 with 20 doubles, seven home runs, 35 RBIs and a .374 on-base percentage in 94 games for Double-A Altoona this season. Primarily a center fielder, Grossman was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year last year after hitting .294 and leading the Florida State League with 124 runs scored and 104 walks in 134 games.

The switch-hitting Grossman is currently ranked by MLB.com as Pittsburgh’s No. 7 prospect. He was originally a sixth-round selection in the 2008 Draft out of Cy-Fair High School in Houston.

Cain, 21, is 3-5 this season with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League. He has allowed just a .242 opponent’s batting average, including a .226 mark against right-handed hitters. A graduate of Waxahachie High School in Texas, Cain was considered one of the top high school players in the state before being selected by Pittsburgh in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft. <p>

Myers happy to be headed to White Sox

The Astros continued to restock their farm system on Saturday by trading veteran pitcher Brett Myers and cash considerations to the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitcher Matt Heidenreich, left-handed pitcher Blair Walters and a player to be named later.

Myers spoke exclusively to MLB.com on Saturday about the trade, saying he was excited to be going to a White Sox team that’s in first place in the American League Central.

“They’re in first place,” he said. “I’m pumped about that and to play for a team that’s fighting for a championship. That’s why I play the game, to win championships.”

Myers, who closed for the Phillies in 2007, has saved 19 of 21 games this year for the Astros in his return to closer. He has a $10 million option for 2013 that vests if he finishes 45 games this year. He has finished 29 games so far. There’s a $3 million buyout if the option doesn’t vest.

The Astros are expected to pick up most of the remainder of Myers’ $11-million contract for this year.

“I was happy they gave me an opportunity to re-establish myself as a starter, and this year they needed a closer,” Myers said. “They had a couple of guys to pick from and they asked me to do it and I was happy to do it. I had a good time there. It was good for my family and everything and it was a good place to play. I guess it just didn’t work out in the end for us.”

Myers, 31, signed a one-year deal with the Astros prior to the 2010 season and went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 33 starts, earning him a two-year contract extension from former general manager Ed Wade. Myers went 7-14 with a 4.46 ERA in 2011 before being moved to closer prior to this year.\“Brett showed that he was a real team player by going to the bullpen for us and was very successful as our closer,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “We appreciate everything he has done for us.”

On Friday, The Astros shipped veteran starting pitcher J.A. Happ, veteran reliever Brandon Lyon and Minor League reliever David Carpenter to Toronto in exchange for seven players – reliever Francisco Cordero, outfielder Ben Francisco, four Minor League prospects and a player to be named later.

It’s the third major trade Luhnow has pulled off this month, having sent Carlos Lee to the Marlins on July 4 in exchange for two prospects. Earlier this year, he shipped veteran catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois to Kansas City for two Minor Leaguers.

Heidenreich (6-5, 185) was 9-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 18 combined starts at Class A Winston-Salem and Dobule-A Birmingham with two complete games and a shutout. The 21-year-old, who was the White Sox fourth-round selection in the 2009 draft, has a 25-17 record in four Minor League seasons with a 3.87 ERA in 75 appearances (56 starts). He will be assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi.

Walters, 22, was 4-6 with a 3.96 ERA in 18 combined starts with Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem this season while tallying 93 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings with 22 walks. Walters, who was taken in the 11th round of the 2011 Draft by the White Sox, has a 13-6 record in his two Minor League seasons with a 3.99 ERA in 32 appearances (31 starts) with 165 strikeouts in 171 1/3 innings of work. He will be assigned to Class A Lancaster.

“The pitchers we are receiving are talented young prospects with big-league upside,” Luhnow said. “They have had success in their young careers and we’re excited to add them to the mix.”

Myers heading to White Sox

The Astros continue to deal, sending veteran pitcher Brett Myers to the White Sox, a source told MLB.com on Saturday.

It’s not yet known what the Astros are getting in return, but the team has made a flurry of deals lately in an effort to stockpile Minor League talent. Houston made a 10-team deal with Toronto on Friday and received seven players in return, including four Minor Leaugers and a player to be named later.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow couldn’t be reached for comment.

Myers, 31, signed a one-year deal with the Astros prior to the 2010 season and went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 33 starts, earning him a two-year contract extension from former general manager Ed Wade. Myers went 7-14 with a 4.46 ERA in 2011 before being moved to closer prior to this year.

Myers, who closed for the Phillies in 2007, has saved 19 of 21 games this year for the Astros. He has an option for 2013 that vests for $10 million if he finished 45 games this year. He has finished 29 games so far. There’s a $3 million buyout if the option doesn’t vest.

Castro hopes draining of fluid and injection help ailing knee

The Astros have come to grips with losing shortstop Jed Lowrie for four to six weeks with an injury to a nerve in his right leg, but they are still unsure how long starting catcher Jason Castro will be sidelined.

Castro, who was placed on the disabled list Sunday with what the team is calling right knee effusion, had the knee drained and endured a pain-killing injection Wednesday in Houston and said he hopes to be able to come off the disabled list next week.

“A pretty significant amount of fluid came out and it looked like they made a pretty successful draining of it,” Castro said via phone from Houston. “I had a shot in there and hopefully in the next few days it starts to really feel better and I’m able to get back to being a lot more active and get more aggressive movements and see how it feels from there.”

Castro, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery on the ACL in his right knee, was hitting .254 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games. As of right now, the Astros aren’t considering having another surgery to help repair the knee, Castro said.

“The reason why we took the route we did of draining and giving the shot is so I can try to play the rest of the year and push that back and avoid having to miss anymore time,” Castro said. “If that’s something that comes up later, we’ll deal with it then.”

 

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