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Since taking over as the general manager in Houston last December, Jeff Luhnow has turned over a good chunk of the 40-man roster he inherited, a collection of players who contributed to the Astros’ first 100-loss (106-loss, to be precise) season in franchise history in 2011.

Lame-duck GM Ed Wade was able to unload the Astros’ top marketable assets—Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn—last summer, but the task of moving the team’s more onerous veteran contracts was left to Luhnow. That process picked up in earnest this summer when Houston shuttled veterans J.A. Happ, Chris Johnson, Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers, and Wandy Rodriguez off to contenders in exchange for more than a dozen minor-league prospects from five organizations.

Player Traded

Date

Club

Commitment Remaining

Carlos Lee

7/4/12

Miami

Balance of $18.5 million 2012 contract.

J.A. Happ

7/20/12

Toronto

Balance of $2.35 million 2012 contract; second-year arbitration eligible.

Brandon Lyon

7/20/12

Toronto

Balance of $5.5 million 2012 contract.

Brett Myers

7/24/12

Chicago White Sox

Balance of $11 million 2012 contract and potentially either a $10 million vesting option or $3 million buyout for 2013.

Wandy Rodriguez

7/24/12

Pittsburgh

Balance of $10 million 2012 contract, $8 million of $13 million 2013 contract, and either a $13 million team option or $2.5 million buyout for 2014.

Chris Johnson

7/29/12

Arizona

Balance of $0.495 million 2012 contract; pre-arbitration eligible.

Luhnow’s moves last month shed the organization of at least $40 million in contract commitments—and potentially much more—to veterans whose services largely would have been wasted during Houston’s rebuilding effort. The new-look Astros have only $5.5 million committed to their 2013 roster (not counting expected arbitration increases), and no money committed to the 2014 team. In addition to payroll flexibility, the moves also provided an influx of young talent to a farm system that had routinely fallen among the bottom five in Kevin Goldstein’s annual organizational talent rankings.

Organizational Talent Rankings

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Average

28

29

30

28

28

26

28.2

Of the 15 prospects Houston acquired last month, six ranked among their organization’s top 10 prospects heading into the season: Robbie Grossman (No. 6, Pittsburgh), Matt Dominguez (No. 6, Miami), Bobby Borchering (No. 8, Arizona), Colton Cain (No. 9, Pittsburgh),  Kevin Comer (No. 10, Toronto), and Rob Rasmussen (No. 10, Miami). Five others were among the top 20, and four more were unranked.

Player

Organization

Player Rank

Stars

Org Rank

Transaction

Robbie Grossman, of

Pittsburgh

6

4

8

Wandy Rodriguez trade

Matt Dominguez, 3b

Miami

6

3

21

Carlos Lee trade

Bobby Borchering, 3b

Arizona

8

3

9

Chris Johnson trade

Colton Cain, p

Pittsburgh

9

3

8

Wandy Rodriguez trade

Kevin Comer, p

Toronto

10

3

2

J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon trade

Rob Rasmussen, p

Miami

10

3

21

Carlos Lee trade

Joe Musgrove, p

Toronto

14

2

J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon trade

Marc Krauss, of

Arizona

14

9

Chris Johnson trade

Rudy Owens, p

Pittsburgh

15

8

Wandy Rodriguez trade

Asher Wojciechowski, p

Toronto

18

2

J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon trade

Carlos Perez, c

Toronto

19

2

J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon trade

David Rollins, p

Toronto

NR

2

J.A. Happ/Brandon Lyon trade

Chris Devenski, p

White Sox

NR

30

Brett Myers trade

Matt Heidenreich, p

White Sox

NR

30

Brett Myers trade

Blair Walters, p

White Sox

NR

30

Brett Myers trade

Adding depth is one thing, but it’s another to deepen a farm system while also adding players with star potential. There are few, if any, potential stars among the prospects Houston brought in via trade last July; the most intriguing players are pitchers, led by Cain and a pair of 2011 supplemental first-round picks, Musgrove and Comer. The Astros were able to add potential impact via the draft, however, netting top prep shortstop Carlos Correa with the first-overall pick and one of the best prep arms, Lance McCuellers Jr., in the supplemental first round.

As part of his analysis of the Astros’ top prospects last winter, Goldstein included a top-10 list of the organization’s best under-25 talents. Some of the names would have fallen off or aged out this year, but only two or three of the players acquired via trade last month would be likely to make a revised version of the list.

Pre-2012 Top 10 Players Under 25

Rank

Player

1.

Jarred Cosart

2.

George Springer

3.

Jordan Lyles

4.

Jonathan Singleton

5.

J.D. Martinez

6.

Jose Altuve

7.

Brett Oberholtzer

8.

Jason Castro

9.

Brett Wallace

10.

Jimmy Paredes

Speculative Current Top 10 Players Under 25

Rank

Player

Comment

1.

Jonathan Singleton

No. 2 pre-2012

2.

Carlos Correa

2012 draft pick

3.

George Springer

No. 2 pre-2012

4.

Jose Altuve

No. 6 pre-2012

5.

Jordan Lyles

No. 3 pre-2012

6.

Jarred Cosart

No. 1 pre-2012

7.

Delino DeShields

Not ranked pre-2012

8.

Colton Cain

2012 trade acquisition

9.

Mike Foltynewicz

Not ranked pre-2012

10.

Robbie Grossman

2012 trade acquisition

Two players (Castro, Wallace) will be ineligible for this offseason’s “official” revised list. J.D. Martinez, Brett Oberholtzer, and Jimmy Paredes are unlikely to make it after disappointing seasons, despite still qualifying. Two players who were already in the organization (DeShields, Foltynewicz) have played their way onto the list, and players acquired from Pittsburgh in the Wandy Rodriguez deal fill two other vacated slots.

* * *

Houston’s priority when dealing veterans this summer was to get contracts off of the books and free up roster slots for younger players. In that sense, Luhnow was successful. Receiving valuable assets in return was a secondary objective, but it’s fair to say the Astros have succeeded in that regard as well. While there may not be any stars in the bunch, many could develop into useful major leaguers. That’s a step in the right direction for an organization whose road to recovery still looks at least a few seasons long. 

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nils707
8/17
Interesting look at the 'Stros. It seems to me like they're taking a quality by quantity approach. Watching the Twins this year, I saw this work fairly well in the pitching staff finding guys like Scott Diamond, Jared Burton and Casey Fien. I realize that's far from a perfect comp and the process of finding a few gems is generally ugly, but given the chance a lot of these guys can surprise. I'll look forward to Houston finding some gems in this group of guys.
mshopoff
8/17
Essentially, Luhnow did an entire extra draft class via trades: he got some high upside arms, a key piece or two, and some organizational guys that you hope, but don't expect, to break out.
bradleyankrom
8/17
Yes. It's a small miracle that they even got that for a bunch of guys 29 teams knew they had to move.
Oleoay
8/17
The Astros did what the Pirates did a few years back by cleaning house, they just did it shortly and quickly whereas the Pirates process took a few months longer.
ofMontreal
8/17
I'm pretty sure Altuve is also not qualified for the new list as he's the starting 2nd baseman.
ofMontreal
8/17
Ok my bad. I was thinking KG prospect list. Carry on.
rocket
8/18
How does Paredes converting to CF affect his value? I'm debating between him and Wallace in a keeper league trade, was leaning Wallace but like Paredes more the more I read about him
greensox
8/19
The success will be judged by when they start contending again. Really, it takes no particular skill to unload players like these (well, unloading Lee was a coup) as most are solid major league players that will plug holes for other teams in pennant race time. Teams do this all the time. The Pirates and Royals did it for 20 years, with zip results until this year for PItt. Cleveland, supposedly a "smart" organization, has been clowning around for a decade itself.
Oleoay
8/19
The Royals never did it. They were the type to trade _for_ or sign fungible veterans like Francouer, Betancourt, Guillen, etc.
greensox
8/21
They traded some - Beltran, e.g. ...to the Astros. The Astros right now have a 50 win team out there. That's TOO awful...you aren't going to sell any tickets with that. And yes, I will argue, that a 70 win team will sell a lot more tickets. Sometimes this stuff can be overdone, especially when the guys you are trading FOR have ceilings no better than the players you're trading away.
Oleoay
8/21
Beltran was a star at the same time they were keeping overpaid middling vets and it wasn't a complete dismantle. The Pirates, and the Astros, traded pretty much everyone who wasn't nailed down to get payroll flexibility and to restock their farm system with organizational depth. I disagree that this stuff can't be overdone. If the guys you acquire have no ceiling higher than the players/"prospects", you still are getting a lot of payroll relief which can be used to sign prospects, develop overseas facilities etc. Also, since the bits you acquire are not locked into a contract, they have even more trade value than the older vets you had given up. Besides, sometimes a bit of luck happens and one of those low-ceiling prospects breaks out to do something very useful.