The Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays have completed a ten player trade that will send right handed reliever Francisco Cordero, outfielder Ben Francisco, as well as prospects Joe Musgrove, Asher Wojciechowski, David Rollins and Carlos Perez to Houston in exchange for left handed starter J.A. Happ, right handed reliever Brandon Lyon and twenty-seven year old right handed reliever David Carpenter.
On the surface, it’s a curious trade, and not only because it involves ten players. The Houston Astros, one of the few teams in a clearly identifiable sell mode acquire two ultimately useless players (to them) in Cordero and Francisco, also get a slew of second tier prospects, the most attractive among whom is likely Musgrove, who was Toronto’s first pick in the first supplemental round of the 2011 draft. Wojciechowski and Perez are two prospects, who like Musgrove were listed among the top twenty in the Blue Jays system. David Rollins has not appeared on any top prospect list, but the twenty-two year old southpaw starter has pitched well so far professionally and risen through the Blue Jays system to Lansing.
Meanwhile, one can only assume that the well documented injuries to Toronto’s pitching staff played a role in their acquisition of middling starter Happ and washed up reliever Lyon. The third part, Carpenter, will go to Triple A and continue his sojourn as a overaged prospect with swing and miss stuff that still hasn’t been able to put it together. These don’t seem like the players typically targeted in trades by contenders or those looking to rebuild. The haul is somewhat purgatorial in that the players acquired aren’t of the impact variety, but rather the type of pot one wins at poker when they stick it out rather than go all in or fold.
In that sense, it’s likely a deal that’s also prompted to some degree by the new MLB playoff format, which allows for two Wild Card teams to play off for the final postseason spot.
What I imagine happening here is that the Blue Jays approached the Astros with interest in Happ and Lyon for purposes unbeknownst to me. They provided a list of players they’d be willing to give up in exchange for these two players. The Astros wanted more names off the list than the Blue Jays were prepared to give up, but were willing to agree to the deal if Houston also took on the team’s extraneous parts in Cordero and Francisco as a means of evening out the cost in salary.
Brandon Lyon is making $5.5 million this season and is approaching free agency as a soon-to-be thirty-three year old whose best stuff is behind him. Yes, his 3.25 ERA so far this season looks nice, but his incredibly lucky 6.5% HR/FB rate heavily influences that number. Personally, I’m not so sure the 44.2% fly ball rate he currently boasts will play as well in the AL East as it did in the NL West.
J.A. Happ will make $2.35 million in his first year of arbitration, and will remain under team control for the next two seasons after 2012. He’s a back of the rotation starter on a good team in the National League, and once again, I’m not sure how his skills will translate to the Junior Circuit. It’s not all bad though, as Eno Sarris has mentioned on Getting Blanked in the past, Happ does a good job at getting ahead in the count, and also inducing swinging strikes. It appears as though the pitcher has used a two seam fastball more often this season, and the increased ground ball rate this year is encouraging. He will start as a reliever on the Blue Jays, and will be first in line to make the move to the rotation should it be required.
If anything, the deal might act as a good example to fan bases of individual teams who have a habit of overvaluing their own prospects. Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays front office has been roundly praised by most in baseball for his transactions, so by reputation, it’s difficult to believe he was hoodwinked on this deal. So, Happ, Lyon and Carpenter offer us an accurate representation of what three top twenty prospects plus filler will bring a team back.
For those same Blue Jays fans learning this harsh lesson, it will be difficult to wave goodbye to 6’5″, 230 lbs, nineteen year old Musgrove. The tall righty, who has only thrown eight innings this year at Bluefield, boasts nine strikeouts to zero walks. There exists a tremendous amount of potential there.
Like Musgrove, the 6’4″, 235 lbs Wojciechowski was also Toronto’s first selection in the first supplemental round of the draft, only the 23 year old was selected a year earlier. He’s made 18 starts at Class A Dunedin this season with a 3.57 ERA and 76 strikeouts over 93 innings. In his last seven starts, he’s gone 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA.
Perez, a catcher who seems to have run the gamut of consideration as a prospect in the Jays system is still, surprisingly, only 21 years old. In his fourth year in the organization, and second at Lansing in Class A, he’s been hitting very well, putting up a .362 wOBA and a 125 wRC+ in his repeat season after a disappointing debut at the level last year.
The 6’1″, 195 lbs Rollins has accumulated a 2.78 ERA in 18 starts with Class A Lansing this season with 75 strikeouts in 77 and two thirds innings pitched. The 2o11 draft pick has shown some issues with his command this year, walking 11.2% of the batters he’s faced.
As for Cordero and Francisco, the combined $6+ million that they’ll make this season helps even out the finances of the deal. I suppose the Astros might find some use for the final year of Francisco’s team control next season. Or, he could be a non-tender candidate. Either way, his departure from the Blue Jays roster creates room for everyone’s favourite would-be-star Travis Snider, who is expected to be added to the team’s active roster shortly.