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Proposing a Hypothetical Blockbuster Trade With the Astros

It's time for our first real blockbuster of this Royals trade series, as ten total players are set to be in motion for this transaction.

Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day, I will be taking a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that makes sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's continue our run with the American League West as I examine a possible trade involving the Houston Astros.

The blockbuster trade is a true rarity nowadays because while big names like Nolan Arenado are dealt from time to time, it’s rare that you get two teams that are willing to swap big players and prospects evenly in a deal. Everything is bigger in Texas, though, and we’ve now arrived at our next trade idea in Houston. 

The Astros have made it to the World Series for the fourth time in franchise history and are in search of their second title. The Astros are one of the most balanced teams in baseball in terms of offensive efficiency, striking a nice balance between power and contact and possessing lockdown pitching up and down the staff.

With that being said, they have completely depleted their farm system to build this juggernaut with most of their best prospects currently in a holding pattern stuck behind this elite offensive core and Martin Maldonado. There is talent to be had in Houston, but the team won’t give it up unless another squad makes them an offer they simply can’t refuse.

What could the Royals get from Houston if they were willing to dangle a former 33rd overall selection, a former All-Star pitcher and a couple of upper-level bullpen arms to help the Astros maintain their dominance in the AL West?

The answer is quite a lot.

The Trade:

Houston Astros Receive: RHP Scott Barlow, RHP Josh Staumont, SP Jackson Kowar, SP Mike Minor

Kansas City Royals Receive: SP Cristian Javier, SP Jose Urquidy, RHP Ryan Pressly, RHP Forrest Whitley, OF Jose Siri, OF Jake Meyers.

It may look like there is a whole bunch going on in this trade and that’s because there is but ultimately, it balances out pretty well for both sides.

Let's start on the Houston side of this trade. The Astros had a good bullpen this year anchored by Pressly, who posted an ERA of 2.25 with 26 saves. The thing with relief pitchers is that they are a very finicky group, especially when they hit their 30s. This could leave Houston open to the possibility of getting younger in the pen. Javier will also be departing the bullpen as he has transitioned on to a starting role, which leaves Houston with two possible roles to fill.

That’s where Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont come into play, as both had solid seasons this year and neither will be making a whole lot of money in comparison to the $10M that the Astros are set to owe Pressly this coming season. This bullpen upgrade could persuade the Astros to consider parting with one of their rotation pieces, as the Astros are just littered to the gills with great young starting pitching.

Throw in an immediate fill-in guy in Minor, who had the best season of his career in the AL West in 2019, and you add even more intrigue to the trade. Kowar just flat out wasn’t ready for major league hitters this season, but his draft pedigree could make him appealing for a team like Houston. The Astros can afford to wait on him to develop. For the Royals, the haul will more than makeup for the price.

We’ll start with Meyers, who has the potential to be a future impact piece. In just under 50 games for the Astros this year, he hit .264 and got on base at a respectable .323 clip while chipping six home runs and 28 RBIs. Meyers got the bulk of his action in center field but did play a handful of games in both left and right field, where he has shown to be a quality defender. He may be an heir apparent in center field but could also be someone that could provide some depth for the Royals as a possible DH option as well.

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The same could also be said for the other outfielder in this trade, Siri. In 21 games this season for Houston, he slashed .304/.347/.609 while collecting four home runs. Siri shares a very similar skillset to Meyers, as both are athletic enough and possess the arm strength to play anywhere in the outfield and could provide 20-plus home run potential. Both do possess higher than desirable strikeout rates but both were in their rookie seasons. One of these two could see substantial playing time as a DH while the other could provide an electric presence as a fourth outfielder for the Royals this year.

The real focal point of this trade are the pitchers that come back to the Royals in this deal. Pressly, even though he is due $10M this season, has proven himself to be a quality relief pitcher. He went from being a solid player in Minnesota to an All-Star in Houston, compiling a 2.21 ERA in 168 games with the Astros. The age is a question, but his past results indicate that he should be able to transition nicely into the closer role for the Royals and is only under contract for this year if he isn’t able to sustain his previous performances.

Javier is an interesting pitcher. The fastball isn’t overpowering, clocking in at the low-to-mid-90s with a slurve and changeup serving as his secondary pitches. There are some questions that surround Javier which relate to him possibly being a starter moving forward and if he’ll be able to get by with the limited pitch selection that he has. Even if Javier doesn’t end up being a starter, he still possesses the ability to stick as a reliever, which still gives him plenty of value.

Urquidy is the next pitcher in this trade and unlike Javier, he would be a lock for this Royals rotation as he’s already proven himself to be a very steady hand for the Astros. An ERA 3.62, an ERA+ of 119, a K/BB ratio of 7:1 and a WHIP of .991 are more than solid. Urquidy usually operates in the shadows in Houston, which could lead him to being a tradeable asset for the American League champions. Even with all his numbers, the most appealing thing about Urquidy is that he is under team control until 2026.

Whitley is the long-term piece in this trade for the Royals, as the Astros' No. 5 prospect has been progressing his way through the major leagues after being drafted in 2016 out of high school. It’s been quite the journey for Whitley, going through a 50-game drug use suspension in the minors as well as Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until mid-2022. He does have one thing going for him, and that is the fact he has five potential major league-caliber pitches.

Whitley still has five weapons in his repertoire that all can grade at plus or better at their best. His most reliable offerings are his fastball, which cuts and sinks while ranging from 92-99 mph, and his mid-80s changeup, which features fade and depth and ranks among the best in the Minors. He also has a downer curveball in the low 80s and a late-biting slider in the mid-80s, both with high spin rates, and a low-90s cutter that some scouts think is better than either of his breaking pitches.

With adjustments to his windup to establish better command, he could crack a roster as early as 2023 if everything goes right with the recovery. A player like this is more than worth the gamble and in my opinion, offers as much, if not more upside than Kowar.

Money-wise, here’s how it shakes out for both teams

*Indicates current salary that could change in arbitration.

  • Houston: Mike Minor $10M, Scott Barlow $2M*, Josh Staumont & Jackson Kowar $575K* (Total: $12.575M)
  • Kansas City: Ryan Pressly $10M, Jose Siri/Jake Meyers/Forrest Whitley/Cristian Javier/Jose Urquidy $575K* (Total: $12.875M)

So, while neither side receives relief when it comes down to money, the real value for Houston lies in the control they have with both Staumont and Barlow. The value for the Royals lies in the massive haul of cheap players they get who can help accelerate the rebuild.

Pressly and Javier could fill the hole left by the departure of both Barlow and Staumont but if the Royals were to make this move, they would be putting a lot of trust into their own farm system to be able to generate talent that could help make up for departures. This move is a gamble for the Royals but it is a move that could shoot them up the AL Central rankings if this trade booms in the way that I expect it to. 

Read More: Can the Royals Get a Trade Return for Carlos Santana This Offseason?