Sean Pendergast

Astros Trade History Shows Young Prospects Are Crapshoots

Getting a talent like Justin Verlander (twice) was worth the prospects given up by a mile.
Getting a talent like Justin Verlander (twice) was worth the prospects given up by a mile. Photo by Jack Gorman
For most Houston Astro fans, the return of Justin Verlander was an injection of energy into a pennant chase that has a much higher degree of difficulty this season than in seasons past. The American League West is just a much tougher division, and challenging times call for big moves. Reacquiring Verlander is a huge move. The early returns are in, and Verlander has been solid enough, with a 1-1 record, while allowing five earned runs in thirteen innings.

There is a faction of Astro fans, though, who are nervous about a move like the Verlander trade, because while it filled a need, and while the Astros are getting Verlander at a much lower dollar figure (thanks to the Mets picking up $53 million of the tab over the next two-plus years), their team had to give up two of its prized minor league prospects — outfielder Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford, who can play multiple positions all over the diamond.

There's a chance that Gilbert and Clifford both turn into capable big league players. A CHANCE. The Astros know what they're getting in Verlander. To the fans who lose sleep over the team moving young prospects for established big leaguers, let's just look at history. The team has made three trades in recent history involving multiple prospects for high level starting pitchers, and the results have been astoundingly good for the Astros.

Let's start with the FIRST time the team traded for Verlander, then look at the 2018 trade for Gerrit Cole, and cap off the analysis with the 2019 deadline trade for Zack Greinke. For each of these trades, I have denoted the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for each pitcher in his team as an Astro, and the WAR for each player traded since leaving the Astros:

2017, JUSTIN VERLANDER, 21.4 WAR as an Astro, traded for....

P Franklin Perez, N/A WAR since leaving Astros
OF Daz Cameron, -0.6 WAR since leaving Astros
C Jake Rogers, 0.7 WAR since leaving Astros
The one pitcher in the deal coming back to the Tigers, Perez, has yet to pitch in the big leagues. He continues to float around low level minor league baseball six years after the trade. Cameron, a first round pick for the Astros in 2015, played 73 games over a three year period with the Tigers, from 2020 to 2022. Rogers has caught 152 games over parts of three seasons with the Tigers, with a career .196 batting average. Verlander won two Cy Young Awards and two World Series in three-plus seasons as an Astro, missing 2020 and 2021 with Tony john surgery.

2018, GERRIT COLE, 11.8 WAR as an Astro, traded for....

P Michael Feliz, -0.8 WAR since leaving Astros
OF Jason Martin, -0.9 WAR since leaving Astros
IF Colin Moran, 0.0 WAR since leaving Astros
P Joe Musgrove, 12.3 WAR since leaving Astros
Feliz had a grand total of five wins as a Pirate, and is now playing in Japan. Martin had 45 total at-bats as a Pirate, and is now playing in Korea. Moran was the definition of a replacement level player inches time as a Pirate, as he totaled a 0.0 WAR in four seasons. He is now out of baseball. Musgrove is the one player in any of these trades that you could call a success post-Houston, as he is now an All Star as a starting pitcher for the Padres.

2019, ZACK GREINKE, 3.5 WAR as an Astro, traded for....

OF Seth Beer, -0.8 WAR since leaving Astros
P J.B. Bukauskas, -0.9 WAR since leaving Astros
P Corbin Martin, -0.8 WAR since leaving Astros
IF Josh Rojas, 3.3 WAR since leaving Astros
Beer and Bukauskas are former Astro first round picks, and Martin was a second round pick, so these were high level prospects at the time. Well, Beer is currently 26 years old and in AAA ball. Bukauskas was waived by the Diamondbacks in 2022, and is currently with Milwaukee. Martin is injured and out for the season. Rojas, ironically, has been the best player (not named Greinke) involved in this deal, and he was traded to Seattle as a throw in to the Paul Sewald trade.

So, add it all up, and the Astros got 36.7 worth of WAR from these three pitchers in these big prospects-for-star pitcher deals. The eleven players sent out have totaled 12.3 in WAR, the equivalent of Musgrove's entire total, so the other ten players, outside of Musgrove, have literally been a big nothing as big leaguers. The moral of the story? Don't sweat the prospects. They rarely work out.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast