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    Monday, August 7, 2023

    The Astros Paid a Steep Price at the Trade Deadline, but Their Recent Prospect Development Successes Might Offset Those Losses

    I started looking at a question several weeks ago, just out of curiosity. It was a complicated question, and I don’t know that I found a conclusive answer; but then, it was a tough question, and I was hardly the first person to take a stab at it. If nothing else, I at least found a lot of interesting bits of trivia, and it seemed like it would maybe be interesting to write about them… except I still never really found a central hook to build it all around.

    See, my basic question was: Have the Astros been doing a better-than-expected job at converting young prospects into useful big leaguers lately? I mean, it’s an interesting question, but there weren’t any factors making it especially pressing to sort through.

    And then, we had the trade deadline, with the Astros sending away two players who were very likely their top prospects (Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford) in order to re-acquire Justin Verlander from the Mets. This came just days after sending away Korey Lee, another prospect with some hype behind him, in order to re-acquire Kendall Graveman. As you might figure, those have taken a toll on a farm system that was already regarded as one of the weakest in the majors.

    There’s a lot going on here; losing big prospects is tough, especially when things are already thin. And part of that is the limitless potential of young players; of course they’ll all succeed, and keep your team competitive indefinitely through several cost-effective, All-Star quality years. Until they try and fail (a few times), there really isn’t a reason for fans to think otherwise (unless they like being pessimistic, or something).

    Of course, in reality, a lot of prospects fail, and a key reason to have a good farm system is to trade bits of it for established players. In fact, as I sit here on the evening of the Trade Deadline (writing this intro, at least), I began the day thinking that I would actually be working on something to that effect, a sort of capstone on my series comparing the Orioles’ and Astros’ rebuilds. In fact, I had this big thing planned, where I would point out how weird it was that a second Mike Elias-guided team with a deep farm system acquired a reigning Cy Young runner-up with two and a half years of control left from an underperforming AL Central team, but then the White Sox just held on to Dylan Cease.

    But actually, that 2017 Justin Verlander trade isn’t a bad point of comparison, for those feeling the doom-and-gloom side of things right now. In exchange for those stellar 2017 to 2019 season (all that was guaranteed when they acquired him), the Astros gave up three prospects for JV, two who were generally considered top 100 prospects and another who would go on to play in the Futures Game. Except that, as of 2023, Franklin Perez is 25 and still hasn’t made it to AAA, Daz Cameron is on the Orioles’ AAA team after Detroit waived him last November, and Jake Rogers (the least-heralded of the trio at the time) is finally, in his third season in the Majors, looking like he can be an average MLB catcher.