The Houston Astros “won” the trade deadline with a haul that included adding Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez to their already stacked rotation, as well as reliever Joe Biagini and catcher Martin Maldonado.
That means they have a better chance of winning their second World Series title in three seasons. And they didn’t have to wait until late October/early November to get a sense of what their deadline-day dealings mean.
On Saturday night, Sanchez combined with Will Harris, Biagini, and Chris Devenski to no-hit the Seattle Mariners 9-0.
The Astros have a way of improving the performance of their pitchers, and Sanchez paid instant dividends in his first start with the Astros after struggling through the previous four months with the woeful Toronto Blue Jays.
“Just trying to have a good first impression,” Sanchez told reporters. “It’s hard to come to a team and feel like you can contribute right away when they’re already so good. So for tonight to end the way it did, these guys coming in behind me and doing their part, too … I’m so happy.”
That should be some serious motivation for the stretch run. Getting Sanchez out of Toronto was a start for the right-hander, who was an All-Star in 2016, when he led the American League with a 3.00 ERA. With the Blue Jays this year, he had lost 13 decisions in a row, led the majors with 14 losses, and had an unsightly 6.07 ERA.
Three days earlier, the Astros’ blockbuster deal for Greinke, a six-time All-Star who was the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner with Kansas City, was finalized just before the 4 p.m. ET deadline and not announced until several minutes afterward. General manager Jeff Luhnow added Greinke and Sanchez to a rotation that already has Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Wade Miley. The cost for the 35-year-old Greinke was four top prospects, but the Astros felt it was worth it, both to try to win another World Series and because Cole is eligible for free agency after the season. So these moves could have ramifications for next year, as well.
Luhnow has been criticized in the past for being too conservative, but he is the guy who added Verlander at the waiver trade deadline in 2017. That Aug. 31 deadline was eliminated by MLB this year, so teams had to either go big by last Wednesday’s deadline or settle for what they already had.
After sealing the deal, Luhnow recalls telling his staff, “I can’t believe we just added Zack Greinke to this rotation and this team.”
Luhnow said the Greinke deal came together in a matter of days.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen and throughout the afternoon there was times I thought it was dead and times I thought it was 50/50, but at no point did I think it was over 50/50,” he told reporters. “And then when it all came together we just looked at each other in the room and said: ‘Is this really happening?’ We kind of had to pinch ourselves.”
Arizona agreed to send Houston $24 million to offset much of the $74.1 million Greinke is owed.
“Every year going forward there’s going to be multiple good players reaching free agency so you just don’t know when you’re going to assemble a group this talented again,” Luhnow said. “So you have to take advantage of that and that’s something Jim believes in and so do I. It’s a balancing act … but we are definitely going for it this year.”
Greinke’s addition gives the Astros four starting pitchers with ERAs in the top 12 in the big leagues. Verlander is fifth (2.68), Cole is 10th (2.87), Greinke 11th (2.90), and Miley 12th (3.05). Verlander leads the majors in wins (15) and the AL in ERA, and Cole tops MLB with 216 strikeouts.
Greinke is scheduled to make his Houston debut on Tuesday against the Rockies.
“Happy to be here in Houston,” he said when he was introduced to the media. “It’s a pretty darn good team, maybe the best team I’ve played with. I’ve been on some good teams and there’s a good chance this is the most talented team I’ve been on.”
That’s saying something, considering the Astros won the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have the NL’s best record but chose not to spend prized prospects on some much-needed bullpen help.
The New York Mets got a jump on the deadline when they stunned pretty much everybody by acquiring ace Marcus Stroman from Toronto for two prospects. A lot of people, including Stroman, thought he would be dealt to the New York Yankees.
The Mets are three games out of the NL’s second wild card, with three teams ahead of them. The 28-year-old Stroman said he considers the Mets a playoff contender this year.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind,” the All-Star pitcher said. “I’m looking forward to making the playoffs this year and chasing it.”
Maybe the Mets do have a shot, considering that they kept Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.
There was another blockbuster trade just before the deadline, a three-way deal highlighted by the Cleveland Indians, dealing from a position of strength, sending starter Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Yasiel Puig and minor league left-hander Scott Moss.
The Padres sent slugger Franmil Reyes, lefty Logan Allen, and infielder/outfielder Victor Nova to the Indians in return for the Reds’ top prospect, outfielder Taylor Trammell.
The Indians made the deal even as they continue to hold the AL’s top wild-card spot and chase the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. It had been expected that Bauer would go to a contender, maybe even a fringe one like the San Diego Padres, but he went to a Reds team that is six games under .500 and 5 ½ games out of the NL’s second wild-card spot. Bauer had become too much of a distraction. The last ball he threw for the Indians was the one he launched over the center field fence in a tantrum as manager Terry Francona came out to lift him during a game at Kansas City three days before the deadline.
The Padres were willing to move Reyes even though he hit 27 home runs. The 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pound slugger was a defensive liability in the outfield and is a better fit as a designated hitter. General manager A.J. Preller loves stockpiling prospects and hopes Trammell will be up sometime next season. The Padres also held on to All-Star closer Kirby Yates even as they continued to struggle after the All-Star break and fall further behind in the wild-card race.
The trade deadline was notable for some big names who stayed put, and for the Yankees failing to add to their rotation.
The resurgent San Francisco Giants held on to ace Madison Bumgarner, even as they moved closer Mark Melancon to the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, left-hander Drew Pomeranz to Milwaukee, and reliever Sam Dyson to Minnesota.
The Braves, trying to keep Philadelphia and Washington at bay, also got right-handers Shane Greene from Detroit and Chris Martin from the Texas Rangers.
The Nationals were busy, too, bolstering their overworked bullpen by adding lefty Roenis Elías and right-hander Hunter Strickland from Seattle, and righty Daniel Hudson from Toronto.
Two teams hoping to grab the AL’s second wild card spot, Tampa Bay and Oakland, both made deals. The Rays got first baseman Jesús Aguilar from Milwaukee and right-handers Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards from Miami. The A’s got right-handers Jake Diekman from Kansas City and Tanner Roark from Cincinnati.
In other notable deals, the Cubs acquired outfielder Nick Castellanos from Detroit, the Giants got second baseman Scooter Gennett from Cincinnati, and the Phillies got outfielder Corey Dickerson from Pittsburgh.