Astros Land Ace Greinke in Last-Minute Trade Deadline Blockbuster

Gerrit Cole was thrilled at the acquisition of Zack Greinke not just because of Greinke's skills, but also because they are friends.
Gerrit Cole was thrilled at the acquisition of Zack Greinke not just because of Greinke's skills, but also because they are friends. Photo by Jack Gorman
Astros' Twitter was in high gear leading up to Wednesday's Major League Baseball deadline. As 3:00 p.m. local time approached and the Astros hadn't made any significant moves to land a starting pitcher (or a reliever), fans began to get restless. A few even called for GM Jeff Lunhow's head.

They had already acquired catcher Martin Maldonado, who had been with the Astros last year, for Tony Kemp to shore up the depth at catcher. They also moved Max Stassi to the Angels for a pair of prospects. It seemed the position behind the plate was set.

As the deadline approached, it was announced Derek Fisher had been dealt to Toronto for starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez and reliever Joe Biagini. Not exactly the big move fans were hoping for, but it was something. Still, saying it was disappointing would be an understatement.

Then, just after the deadline passed, news hit the wire that the Astros had made the biggest deal of the day by acquiring ace pitcher Zack Greinke from Arizona — and it didn't take lauded prospect Kyle Tucker to do it. The timing of the deal felt a lot like the last-minute deal to land Justin Verlander in 2017.

What had been an underwhelming afternoon suddenly got very interesting for all baseball fans, but especially those in Houston. Not only did the Astros add back of the rotation starting pitching in Sanchez and another reliever in Biagini as well as a solid veteran backup catcher, but they put together one of the best one-two-three starting rotations baseball has seen in quite sometime.

Who did they lose?

The Astros did have to give up some of their top prospects in a still deep minor league system to get the 35-year-old righty. The haul for the Diamondbacks includes pitchers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas, infielder and fan name favorite Seth Beer, and utility player Josh Rojas.

They also lost Fisher, who had just not lived up to his promise. And fan favorite Tony Kemp, suffering from a tough year at the plate, was needed to get Maldonado.

But, when you consider the guys they gave up to get Greinke, Sanchez, Biagini, Maldonado and three outfield prospects to boot, it was a pretty good day.

How good can this pitching staff be?

In Greinke, Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the Astros have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, likely the best. If you include Wade Miley, who has been very good all season, it gives them four of the top 13 ERA leaders in baseball. Also, their three top pitchers are ranked one, two and three in WHIP in baseball.

The Astros even managed to get the D-Backs to pay $24 million of Greinke's salary and have both Greinke and Verlander under contract until 2021.

In short, they are going to be very, very good. Considering they finally have a fully healthy lineup — one many consider the best in the AL if not all of baseball — and the best record in the AL even with all the injuries, they must be the favorite to win the pennant and, perhaps, the whole thing.

Keep in mind also that the Astros have an incredibly soft schedule to finish the season.

When is Greinke's first start?

Because he pitched Wednesday, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings with 7 strikeouts in New York, he would not be available until next Tuesday at home against Colorado.

Whenever that first start is, it feels like an incredible jolt to a team that was already one of the best in baseball, even with all the prospects they had to forfeit to do it.

A final thought, does Houston have the best assemblage of sports stars anywhere?

Think about it...

James Harden, Russell Westbrook
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, George Spinger, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yourdan Alvarez
Deshaun Watson, Deandre Hopkins, JJ Watt

Hard to argue with that list.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke