When the starting pitching market stalled for Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, the Astros acquired a starter who was pitching less than two hours earlier in a city over 1,600 miles away. Let’s grade what could be the defining deal of the 2019 trade deadline.
Astros acquire: RHP Zack Greinke, $24 million
Diamondbacks acquire: Prospects 1B Seth Beer, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, RHP Corbin Martin, INF/OF Josh Rojas
*The Astros are paying the $53 million remaining on Greinke’s contract.
Grading Houston’s Side of the Deal
In 2017, the Astros traded for Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and they won the World Series. Now, just minutes (seconds?) before the trade deadline, they acquired another former Cy Young winner in Greinke. They are undoubtedly the favorites to win the American League pennant, and arguably the World Series.
Like a number of first-place clubs, Houston entered Wednesday with one hole to fill. But unlike the Yankees, Cardinals and Dodgers, the Astros went all-in and got the best pitcher rumored to be on the market—prospects be damned. In an era where the future and farm system is seemingly more valuable than ever before and teams don’t want to take on aging players' large contracts, the Astros did what’s best for them now. They’ll be rewarded for it. As SI’s Tom Verducci pointed out in his column Monday, each of the past five World Series winners all made significant deadline moves that helped them in October.
Just look at the Astros’ rotation for the rest of the year:
1. Verlander (14-4, 2.73 ERA, 0.81 WHIP)
2. Gerrit Cole (12-4, 2.94 ERA, 1.00 WHIP)
3. Greinke (10-4, 2.90 ERA, 0.94 WHIP)
4. Wade Miley (9-4, 3.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
5. Jose Urquidy (1-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)*
*Urquidy has made just four starts this year filling in for the injured Brad Peacock.
That playoff rotation, 1-4, rivals any in baseball now, and really, could be one of the best we’ve seen since the Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine were bumping shoulders for the Braves. As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark noted on Twitter, the top two WHIP leaders in the majors this season are Verlander and Greinke, while Cole ranking fifth.
And Greinke doesn’t just help the Astros this year. He’s signed through the 2021 season, so if they don’t re-sign Cole this offseason, they’ve got Greinke following Verlander (also signed through 2021) in their rotation.
But enough about the future. This deal is for now. And the Astros, once again, are the most dangerous team in the majors.
Grading Arizona’s Side of the Deal
This is also good for the Diamondbacks. They had almost no choice but to shed Greinke’s remaining salary if they weren’t seriously in contention and the opportunity presented itself. The Astros are going to pay two-thirds of the remaining $77 million owed to him, and the Diamondbacks got four of Houston’s top-30 prospects in return.
Per MLB Pipeline, the Diamondbacks received the third-, fourth- and fifth-ranked prospects in Houston's farm system. Beer (No. 3) is a power-hitting first baseman who could be regular in Arizona’s lineup soon enough. Both Bukauskas (No. 4) and Martin (No. 5) project to be solid starters, though Bukauskas could end up as a reliever. Martin is out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he could be a mainstay in the Diamondbacks rotation in years to come. Utility man Josh Rojas (No. 22) is a high-contact lefthanded hitter who is currently slashing .310/.402/.586 in Triple-A.