If someone told you before the season that the Astros would be a potential buyer at the MLB trade deadline, most of you Astros fans probably would have signed up for that. Who knew that they would not only be a buyer, but that they would be among the most active teams with no fear of sealing a deal to go win a title in 2015?
One night after reportedly falling short in their efforts to trade for Phillies ace Cole Hamels, who chose to go to the Texas Rangers as opposed to waiving his no-trade clause to head to Houston, the Astros stayed aggressive, shoring up their lineup by acquiring Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez (along with pitcher Mike Fiers) for four prospects, including stud outfielder Brett Phillips.
Gomez, 29, was a Gold Glove outfielder in 2013 and has been named to the N.L. All-Star team twice. He's under contract for $9 million next season, so the Astros will have him in their lineup in 2016 before he's eligible to file for free agency. This season, he's hitting .262 with a .751 OPS, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. He has missed time with injuries to his hip and hamstring this season but has played in all but one game since June 23.
The hip injury is relevant insomuch as it was reportedly the reason that the Mets called off a deal late Wednesday night that would've sent Gomez to New York for a package that included, among others, shortstop Wilmer Flores, whose digital fingerprint will forever include YouTube clips of him crying while taking the field late in the game that night after learning through social media between innings of the Mets' game that he was likely headed to Milwaukee. (To be fair, who wouldn't cry over being traded to Milwaukee?)
As it turned out, the deal between the Brewers and Mets wound up never materializing, which allowed Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow to pounce. As it turned out, the Astros had been engaged with the Brewers in talks for Gomez throughout the day on Wednesday. "We were talking to Houston while we were doing the deal with New York, and we re-engaged today," Brewers GM Doug Melvin said.
"When they called me into the office, I thought they were going to explain what happened yesterday," said Gomez, who spoke just after news broke of the trade to the Astros. He managed to keep his sense of humor as well. "They said, 'Now you've been traded.' I asked, 'Is this the real one?'"
In the deal, the Brewers will receive four prospects form the Astros — outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, left-hander Josh Hader and right-hander Adrian Houser. The Astros also acquire the 76th international signing slot for the 2015-16 signing period. From the Brewers' standpoint, Phillips, 21, was the crown jewel in the trade. Houston's sixth-round pick out of Seminole High School in Florida in the 2012 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, Phillips has spent four seasons in Houston's minor league system, hitting .298 with an OPS of .862.
Back to the Astros' side of the deal — Fiers, 30, was 5-9 with a 3.89 ERA in 21 starts with Milwaukee this season, and joins a club whose starting rotation is pretty well stacked with Dallas Kuechel, Lance McCullers and Scott Kazmir, who pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball Thursday night in his second start as an Astro. With Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman and Vince Velasquez all in the mix as well, Fiers's role on the team, at best, is as a spot starter or, more likely, long relief.
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But the focal point of this trade for Astros fans is Gomez, who along with the return of third baseman Jed Lowrie gives the Astros' offense a serious boost in advance of right fielder George Springer's return sometime in the next several weeks. With a healthy Springer, the Astros will have a starting lineup with several bats ranging from capable (Gattis, Lowrie) to All-Star-caliber (Altuve, Gomez, Springer) to potentially transcendent (Correa).
Add the Gomez acquisition to the Kazmir trade a week ago, and the Astros are suddenly a serious player in the American League, with a top three in the starting rotation (Keuchel, McCullers, Kazmir) that can hang with any other team's top three in the league. Add in a bullpen that has been solid and at times spectacular this season, and the makings are there for a very enjoyable October.
51-111 in 2013 seems like it occurred in an alternate universe. The good times are here. Welcome aboard, Carlos Gomez.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.