Thursday, July 30, 2015

Weighing in on the Carlos Gomez Trade

I'll be honest. I wasn't very happy when I saw this late this afternoon.

I have nothing against Carlos Gomez. And I'd never even heard of Mike Fiers until a couple of hours ago. I want the Astros to be better and if this trade helps them get better, I'm all for it. But let me tell you a little about the players we're losing.

I love Adrian Houser. He's a competitor. I did my first interview with him when he was only 18. The first time I watched him pitch, he was just a kid about 30 pounds lighter than he is now, but showed great rhythm and athleticism on the mound. He was fun to watch. And then I saw him grow and develop and find his command. Each time I saw him, he had matured as a man and as a pitcher.

Domingo Santana was the opposite, physically at least. He was HUGE the first time I saw him at High A in 2012, the year after the trade, but he was what I called a little "doughy." By the time he got to Corpus Christi the next season, he had transformed himself. He was nothing but muscle and incredibly strong at the plate. And he had also started to transform himself defensively. I'll admit that I occasionally cringed when I saw him in right field. But he worked hard and started to learn what routes to take to balls and how to play smarter in the outfield. In late May in Fresno, there was a constant chatter going in Spanish between he and Carlos Correa on either side of the batting cage. I have no idea what they were talking about, but they were having a whole lot of fun together.

Josh Hader is just a good kid who likes sweet tea and country music ... until he gets on the mound. Then he's as hard-nosed and competitive a pitcher as you will ever see. He once told me that he wanted to "assassinate" the hitter. A little hyperbole, sure, but to see him go from laidback country guy to a ninja assassin with a deceptive delivery was quite entertaining.

I did like and do like all three of those players very much, but I will honestly tell you that I think they will all have a clearer path to the majors with another organization. If you haven't noticed, things are getting a little crowded at the top. There are a lot of moving parts as the Astros are having to get more and more and more creative with the 40-man roster. Houser would likely be lost in the Rule 5 draft this coming year if not protected, and Santana would not make it through waivers if he was removed from the 40-man roster. It makes sense to get something for those players now rather than losing them for nothing later.

However, I had three players in the minor league system that were, to me, untouchables. I won't reveal the other two because I don't want Jeff Luhnow to get any more ideas and further break my heart. But Brett Phillips was at the top of that list of three players.

Brett Phillips is a phenomenal talent. Quick twitch athleticism, speed, a canon arm, the ability to hit for average and for power. I see Phillips as becoming a legit 5-tool player in the major leagues and I think he will make his debut by the end of 2016 if not sooner. And I'm not the only one. MLB Pipeline had Phillips as the number 2 prospect in the Astros system. More than that, though, is Phillips' special ability to connect with everyone and to lead a team. He is going to become a very special player, one that can become the heart and soul of a team. And, yes, I am very sad to see him go. This one is going to hurt. It already does. As one person said, in a trade you have to give up good players, but you should make sure you keep the ones that can be great.

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