Not content with making arguably the biggest trade of the deadline in acquiring Zack Greinke, the Astros also decided to acquire Aaron Sánchez, Joe Biagini, and Cal Stevenson from the Blue Jays in exchange for Derek Fisher. The Astros were arguably World Series favorites before, and now with this series of trades they are even more so.
I wrote about Sánchez recently, and in that article I concluded that it would be tough for the Jays to get much for the soon to be free agent. Even with the extra players included, it appears that I was right (there’s a first for everything).
Derek Fisher was a former top-100 prospect who has seen his stock fall in recent years. He debuted in 2017, but has gone back and forth between the majors and minors due to ineffectiveness. In 312 career plate appearances he has hit only .201/.282/.367 and has struck out a whopping 35 percent of the time. With the kind of talent the Astros have had in the outfield, that kind of performance was not going to meet the bar for playing time.
All that being said, Fisher is a good return for the Jays. If he is ever going to improve, he is going to need regular playing time in the majors to do so, and that certainly was not going to happen in Houston. Getting a player with upside is exactly what the team needed to do with this trade.
The Astros’ rotation has been excellent, which is probably unsurprising for a team that has Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The rotation’s 3.91 RA9 is ranked in the top five in baseball, and their 28.6 K% ranks first. Still, the rotation needed some depth even after the acquisition of Greinke, especially since it is unknown when Brad Peacock is going to be able to return from his shoulder discomfort.
However, as I mentioned in my previous article on Sánchez, I am skeptical that he will be able to provide that depth. He has a 6.55 RA9 this season with poor peripherals, but the good news is that if any team can fix him, the Astros can. He has a great curveball, and the Astros have shown what they can do with such players before. The worst case scenario is that they can have him join Biagini in the bullpen.
Speaking of which, the Astros have a great bullpen too, but they just had to put Ryan Pressly on the IL due to knee soreness, so having the extra help is a good thing. Biagini has been a solid bullpen arm for the Blue Jays with a 4.04 RA9 and average peripherals.
The Astros received Stevenson as the prospect included in this deal, and one has to wonder why they were interested in him, mostly because he is not very good but the team has proven adept in turning players like him into much more. He is a 22-year-old in High-A who appears to have excellent plate discipline and contact skills, but he can’t seem to hit for much power. He has had 390 PA so far this year, and while his .388 OBP looks great, his .393 SLG and sub-.100 ISO do not.
Stevenson reminds a little bit of Brewer Hicklen, whom I saw play for the Wilmington Blue Rocks a couple of months ago, because he had an OBP that was absurdly higher than his slugging due to his passive approach at the plate. I have not seen Stevenson in person, so I can’t tell if he has a similarly passive approach, but I can say that there is no way he will be able to achieve a high OBP in the majors while hitting for so little power. Major league pitchers will just keep pounding the strike zone, forcing Stevenson to hit for a high average to maintain a good OBP unless he proves that he can drive the ball.
Overall this trade works for both sides. It will be fascinating to see what the Astros can do with their new players.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.