If you believe the Astros hold on to their prospects too long and that they love their prospects too much, read this zinger from Larry the GM:
In the last four plus seasons, the Astros have traded away a team worth of prospects that is better than a couple of teams in the MLB today.
If you don’t believe me – read on with an open mind. If you do believe me – read on to be justified in your faith in me.
In the dark days of Astros history, the team was terrible, the minors were depleted, and the team took a bold and controversial direction. The new owner and new GM admitted they would not be trying to win near-term. On his first day, Luhnow completed the Rule 5 draft and traded for new Rule 5 draftee Marwin Gonzalez. Almost every trade the Astros made in this era was designed to trade big league players for potentially higher future value prospects. From Dec. 8, 2011, to July 31, 2014, the Astros made around 20 win-later trades (depending how liberally one applies that definition). The Astros promised there would be a day they would try to win again. On July 31, 2014, the Astros began their progress toward winning near-term by essentially trading prospects for prospects.
Per Baseball Reference, the Astros “Traded Austin Wates (minors), Jarred Cosart and Enrique Hernandez to the Miami Marlins. Received Jake Marisnick, Francis Martes, Colin Moran and 2015 competitive balance round A pick.” (That pick became Daz Cameron – part of the Verlander trade.)
The Astros believed in Marisnick and started him 51 times in their remaining 53 games. The Astros went 26-27 in their last 53 games of 2014. It was then time to try to win, and, true to their word, that is what the Astros did.
Many Astros fans have had a hard time differentiating trading strategically and trading for a perceived short-term gain. Since July 31, 2014, the Astros have made some bad deals, but not many. As stated up front, the Astros are often criticized for holding on to their prospects too long. While this might have some validity for a few players, many do not appreciate the scope of prospects the Astros have traded away since July 31, 2014. The Astros had spent 2.5 years acquiring assets (in trades and in premium draft positions), so they have had a lot of prospects to leverage for players like Gattis, Kazmir, Fiers, Gomez, Giles, McCann, Verlander, Cole, Maldonado, Osuna, Pressly, and Diaz.
How good is the team of prospects the Astros traded from then until now? Take a look at the roster and the depth chart projected WAR from Fangaphs:
For this team of players, I did not include established players at the time of the trade like Giles. A few of these players have not reached the majors yet but could be promoted if they were on a bad team.
The overall projected WAR of this team is not good at 21.2. How bad is it, though? Here is the current WAR projections of the MLB team per Fangraphs:
The team of Astros traded prospects is about as good as the 2019 Tigers and Royals and better than the Marlins and the Orioles. The pitching on this team is nearly average. Since the median WAR is around 35, this team would be predicted to finish around 14 games under 0.500 or with 72-76 wins. That is not a bad team for a bunch of castoffs.
In short, the Astros have been very strategic about which prospects they have traded and which they have not. They have not gotten this always right, but to say they have hoarded all their prospects ignores the ones they have traded.
Hopefully, now you will agree that in the last four-plus seasons the Astros have traded away a team’s worth of prospects that is better than a couple of teams in the MLB today.