As expected, the Houston Astros walked away from the July 31 trade deadline with pitching, and they landed a big name. The Astros have acquired Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona will receive four prospects, including right-handers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas, first baseman/outfielder Seth Beer, and utility man Josh Rojas. News of the trade broke shortly after the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline, and the teams confirmed the deal later in the afternoon.
Greinke's massive six-year, $206.5 million contract includes a 15-team no-trade list, but the Astros were not among the 15 teams. The D-Backs were able to trade him to Houston without him signing off on the deal. Greinke is owed roughly $74 million through 2021, and, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Arizona is eating $24 million, hence the strong prospect return.
Coincidentally enough, Greinke started Wednesday afternoon's game (GameTracker) against the Yankees in New York. He struck out seven and allowed two runs in five innings before exiting the game following a rain delay. News of Greinke's trade broke soon after the game resumed and the YES Network broadcast showed him exiting the ballpark in the late innings.
The Astros were on the hunt for rotation help not just for this season, but also going forward. Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, and Collin McHugh are all scheduled to become free agents after the season. At a minimum, Houston knows they can build their rotation around Greinke and Justin Verlander next year, with Lance McCullers Jr. set to return from Tommy John surgery as well.
As for the Diamondbacks, they managed to land Houston's No. 3 (Beer), No. 4 (Bukauskas), No. 5 (Martin), and No. 22 (Rojas) prospects in the trade, according to MLB.com. Only Martin has MLB experience -- he pitched to a 5.59 ERA in five starts with the Astros before going down with Tommy John surgery earlier this year. He will likely miss all of next season.
Bukauskas (15th overall in 2017) and Beer (28th overall in 2018) are recent first-round picks. Bukauskas has struggled this year, throwing 85 2/3 innings with a 5.25 ERA in Double-A. MLB.com notes some scouts see him "as a Sonny Gray type." Beer is hitting a stout .309/.410/.564 between Single-A and Double-A, though there are questions about his long-term position.
Rojas, 25, was a 26th-round pick in 2017, and he is an excellent fourth piece for the D-Backs. He's hitting .315/.403/.575 with 20 homers in 90 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Do that while playing three positions (second, third, left) and hitting left-handed, and, at worst, you're going to have a chance to stick around a long time on a National League bench.
In one fell swoop the up-and-coming D-Backs were able to shed about $50 million in salary obligation through 2021, and add four talented young prospects to the system. Martin is hurt, Bukauskas is struggling, and Beer doesn't have a defensive home, but those are very talented players. If you're going to roll the dice on prospects, you roll the dice on players like them.
In a separate trade the Astros reportedly acquired right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini, and outfielder Cal Stevenson, from the Blue Jays for outfielder Derek Fisher. Sanchez could eventually move to the bullpen, where his power sinker/curveball combination could really play up. Houston's fully healthy post-deadline bullpen could look like this:
- Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna
- Setup: RHP Ryan Pressly
- Middle: RHP Joe Biagini, RHP Chris Devenski, RHP Will Harris, RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Joe Smith
- Long: RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Aaron Sanchez
- Depth: RHP Josh James, RHP Cy Sneed
That is an awful lot of bullpen arms -- that's nine established big leaguers for eight bullpen spots -- but there's no such thing as too much pitching depth. Even if Sanchez stays in the rotation, the Astros have more than enough power arms to get outs in the late innings. They're set up to smother opposing teams, especially in a short postseason series.
In Fisher, the Astros surrendered a 25-year-old former top prospect who's struggled to establish himself at the MLB level. He is a career .201/.282/.367 hitter in 112 big league games and will be out of minor league options next season, meaning he can't go to Triple-A without being exposed to waivers. For all intents and purposes, Fisher was a spare part for Houston.
The Astros came into Wednesday with the American League's best record at 69-39. They are eight games up on the second-place Athletics. The Greinke trade was not made with the intention of just winning the AL West, however. This was a move made to push the 'Stros over the top and get them their second World Series title in three years.