Sean Pendergast

Houston Astros MLB Trade Deadline History — Four Winners, Four Losers

Justin Verlander is the greatest trade deadline acquisition in team history.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Justin Verlander is the greatest trade deadline acquisition in team history.
On Monday afternoon, Astros general manager James Click made a solid, calculated trade deadline move, as the Astros brought in outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini from the Baltimore Orioles as part of a three way trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays. In the deal, the Astros gave up fun-loving outfielder Jose Siri and minor league prospect Chayce McDermott.

On paper, it's a solid deal, which would continue a trend for Click since taking over as Astros GM in 2020, as last season, Click gave the bullpen a makeover at the deadline, bringing in Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia, and Phillip Maton. (He also brought in Rafael Montero, who was injured in 2021, but has been nails in 2022 out of the bullpen.)

We will see where the Mancini deal takes the Astros. With Yuli Gurriel regressing heavily and Michael Brantley injured, Mancini is, at the very least, useful. The Astros also added catcher Christian Vazquez in a deal with the Red Sox Monday evening, and shipped out starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to Atlanta for reliever Will Smith. All three deals make sense.

For now, though, let's go back and look at the benchmarks when it comes to measuring the good and bad of the MLB trade deadline, Astro style. Here are four winners and four losers from historical Astros deals made within days of the deadline:

WINNERS

4. RYAN PRESSLY (July 27, 2018)
TRADE: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Houston Astros for Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino

The 2018 acquisition of Pressly from Minnesota for minor leaguers Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino kind of flew under the radar, since it happened three days before the Astros traded for the controversial closer, Roberto Osuna, but Pressly was dynamite for the rest of that season, sporting a 0.77 ERA for the Astros after the trade. Pressly would make the All Star team in 2019, and then become the closer during the COVID season in 2020 after Osuna went on the injured list. Pressly became an All Star again in 2021, and this season, he tied a team record for consecutive hitters retired (32, tied with Justin Verlander).

3. ZACK GREINKE (July 31, 2019)
TRADE: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with cash to the Houston Astros for Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin and Josh Rojas

I remember the day this trade went down in 2019. I was laying on my coach, tuned into the MLB Network, and the 3 p.m. trade deadline came and went, and there was (seemingly) no activity from the Astros. Then moments after 3 p.m., Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Astros had traded for Greinke, and I did a cartwheel in my living room! The trio of Velrander, Cole, and Greinke should have won a World Series that season. As it was, the Astros got two-plus fairly solid seasons from Greinke, with a 22-11 record, and an ERA under 4.00. Good enough.

2. RANDY JOHNSON (July 31, 1998)
TRADE: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later, Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. The Houston Astros sent John Halama (October 1, 1998) to the Seattle Mariners to complete the trade

This was another one where I remember where I was when I first heard about the trade. This time, I was going to my front door at my home in Tomball to get the morning paper. (You see, kids, back in the day, the news actually was delivered on paper to your front door daily, but I digress.) There it was, in black and white, "UNIT COMING TO HOUSTON" was the headline! The Big Unit was an Astro for a few magical months, putting together a sparkling 10-1 record and a 1.28 ERA. This was another Astros team, though, where the postseason felt like a missed opportunity. Somehow, a team with multiple future Hall of Famers in their primes fell to the San Diego Padres and Sterling Hitchcock in the NLDS. Let's move on.

1. Justin Verlander (August 31, 2017)
TRADE: Traded by the Detroit Tigers with a player to be named later and cash to the Houston Astros for Franklin Perez (minors), Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers. The Detroit Tigers sent Juan Ramirez (minors) (October 13, 2017) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade

This one was the best one, because it ended in a World Series victory. This deal took place back when there were two trade deadlines, July 31 and August 31. The Astros didn't make any significant moves at the July 31 deadline, which caused quite the uproar among Astro players. However, back in 2017, you got a second chance at making a trade, as long as the player targeted cleared waivers. Somehow, Verlander went unclaimed on waivers, so the Tigers were able to move him to the Astros for three minor leaguers. I would say that deal has worked out, as Verlander won a title in 2017, won a Cy Young in 2019, and is on his way to possibly doing both in 2022, coming off of Tommy John surgery in late 2020.

LOSERS

4. Larry Andersen (August 30, 1990)
TRADE: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Boston Red Sox for Jeff Bagwell

In 1990, the Red Sox needed bullpen help for the stretch run. They also had a logjam at third base in their organization, with Wade Boggs at the MLB level, Scott Cooper at Triple A, and young Bagwell at Double A. So they flipped an asset that likely would never play for them to get immediate bullpen help. The Astros then flipped said asset over to first base, and watched him evolve into one of the greatest first basemen of this or any era. This is the greatest trade in Astros history, if you can peel away the "Bagwell never won a title" narrative.

3. Ed Wade
There is no specific date on this bullet point. No, this is more of a collective bullet point over just how awful the return was on several "tear down" trades of star players made by Wade back in 2010 and 2011 at the respective trade deadlines those seasons. Here are those four trades. Avert your eyes, Astro fans:

ROY OSWALT
July 29, 2010: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies for Anthony Gose, J.A. Happ and Jonathan Villar

LANCE BERKMAN
July 31, 2010: Traded by the Houston Astros to the New York Yankees for Mark Melancon and Jimmy Paredes

HUNTER PENCE
July 29, 2011: Traded by the Houston Astros with cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later, Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton and Josh Zeid. The Philadelphia Phillies sent Domingo Santana (August 15, 2011) to the Houston Astros to complete the trade

MICHAEL BOURN
July 31, 2011: Traded by the Houston Astros with cash to the Atlanta Braves for Juan Abreu, Paul Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer and Jordan Schafer

That is some horrific general managing right there. Let's keep it moving.

2. Josh Fields (August 1, 2016)
TRADE: Traded by the Houston Astros to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yordan Álvarez

Right now, the Bagwell and Verlander trades are the all-time heists in franchise history, but that's only because Alvarez is just in Year 4 of his big league career (and missed nearly a full season in 2020). If Alvarez continues to pile up historical stat lines, and is part of a World Series winner or two (or more), then Josh Fields should do the introduction for Jeff Luhnow into the Astros' Hall of Fame. (Yes, I think Luhnow should someday go into the Astro Hall of Fame, even though he was fired for not passing along a memo on sign stealing.)

1. Clubhouse omertà, the trade for a RAT (July 30, 2015)
TRADE: : Milwaukee Brewers trade Mike Fiers, Carlos Gomez and cash to the Houston Astros for Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana

Bad enough that the only player from this trade to turn into anything of significance was Hader, who made multiple All Star games as the Brewers' closer. Even worse that the main target in the deal, Gomez, hit .221 with an OPS of .619 in an Astro uniform, after making the All Star Game in 2013 and 2014. However, the worst part of this deal is that the Astros brought in the player who ratted them out for their sign stealing in 2017, Mike Fiers, THE RAT. Is clubhouse omertà not sacred anymore?

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.