Last offseason, the Astros sent the message that they believed the worm had turned with their organization, and they began making deals that a team would make on the road to contention, as opposed to the previous five years of drudgery on the road to rebuilding. They made deals like trading prospects for Evan Gattis, or signing Colby Rasmus for a year and several million dollars. These were subtle, small deals that were an indicator of where they felt they were as a franchise.
General manager Jeff Luhnow's optimism was validated as the team took home a wild card spot in the American League and came within six outs of knocking off the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals in an AL Divisional Series. There are far fewer holes on this Astros team than any iteration in recent memory. It's the most complete Astros team since the title contenders of the mid-2000s. The deals Luhnow makes this offseason, a few of them at least, will be far less subtle.
The Astros can win now, and the first declarative salvo of the offseason to that end was fired on Wednesday night as they shored up one of the few weak spots from last season (and a weak spot that, if fortified, could've prevented the late-inning collapse in Game 4 of the Royals series) by trading four players to the Philadelphia Phillies for 25-year-old Ken Giles, as first reported by FOX 26.
The crown jewel, if there is one, in the Phillies' haul for Giles is 23-year-old right hander Vincent Velazquez, who made 19 appearances at the big league level last season and was considered one of the top arms in the system. The other players sent to the Phillies are pitcher Brett Oberholtzer, minor league outfielder Derek Fisher and right-handed prospect Thomas Eshelman.
The closer's role was an area the Astros reportedly tried furiously to bolster at the trade deadline last season, but talks fell apart on a number of potential names. Now, Giles would seem to be the perfect fit, not only from a skill set standpoint but also a contractual standpoint.
On the field, Giles was dominant last season after taking over the closer's role for the Phillies following the trade of Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals, and has struck out 151 batters in 115 big league innings. The Astros wanted a closer who throws hard, and according to advanced stats on ESPN.com, Giles threw 193 fastballs of greater than 98 mph last season. The Astros' entire bullpen threw eight combined.
Contractually, Giles is still under club control for five more seasons, playing for relative peanuts the next couple of years before becoming arbitration-eligible. In other words, for a team whose core is largely still under club control or very team-friendly deals, Giles is a perfect fit, allowing the team the flexibility of doing long-term, far more expensive extensions with some of its core group.
Reportedly, the teams had discussed a deal centered around Lance McCullers, but the Astros were unwilling to part with McCullers, who grew into a key part of the starting rotation as the season wore on. The Phillies, who are years away from relevance, reportedly wanted "Pitching, and more pitching" in exchange for Giles, accruing to ESPN.com.
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In the "turned the tables" category, the irony in this deal is that it was about eight years ago that the Astros sent closer Brad Lidge to the Phillies for prospects (including Michael Bourn), and it was about five years ago, in season, that the Astros sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies for a gaggle of prospects, including enigmatic first baseman Jon Singleton.
Funny how the times have changed.
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