Two seasons ago, the Houston Astros lost 111 games. Now they're in fantastic position to win the AL West title after making their second big deal before the trade deadline. A day after a deal that would have sent center fielder Carlos Gomez to the New York Mets fall apart, the Astros acquired Gomez and starting pitcher Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers for four prospects.
While Houston paid a steep price in prospects -- Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader and Adrian Houser -- they get an All-Star outfielder who is team controlled through 2016 (and making just $9 million next season) and a solid back-of-the-rotation pitcher under team control through 2019. While Gomez's offensive numbers are down in 2015 compared to the past two seasons, Astros center fielders rank just 25th in the majors in wOBA, so Gomez should provide an offensive upgrade while providing a similar level of defense (Gomez's defensive metrics are down from 2013 but he's about league-average, which is what the Astros have been getting from their center fielders).
Gomez isn't without risk. The Mets reportedly backed away from Gomez due to concerns about a hip issue that sidelined him earlier this season. Gomez has also had significant home/road splits with the Brewers the past three seasons, although not as severe this year.
Miller Park is one of the better home run parks in the majors and Gomez's power numbers spiked there. We'll see how the power carries over to Minute Maid, a more neutral home run park.
Aside from the numbers, Gomez brings some swagger to a young team already brimming with confidence. Nothing wrong with that. He's not a big on-base guy but he's a power/speed guy who can hit leadoff or cleanup. George Springer was thriving in the leadoff spot before his wrist injury, so maybe he'll stay there once he returns, giving the Astros a top four of Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Gomez. They're all right-handed, which is a minor concern, but all can run as well. Maybe the lineup lacks that superstar hitter, but it's a solid top four with a bunch of power guys coming after that.
Fiers helps take more pressure off rookie starters Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, if the Astros want to limit their innings. A.J. Hinch can now roll out a rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Scott Kazmir, Collin McHugh, McCullers and Fiers, with Velasquez and Scott Feldman available for depth. General manager Jeff Luhnow has done a great job upgrading the rotation as the season progressed, first adding the two rookies (who, to their credit, performed well) and then getting Kazmir and Fiers. At this time, I'd put give the Astros slight odds to beat out the Angels in what should be a tight race down the stretch.
As for the Brewers, they had to begin a rebuilding a process and Gomez was their big chip. They pick up MLB.com's midseason No. 2, 7, 14 and 21 prospects from the Astros. Phillips is the main guy here, a 21-year-old center fielder who was tearing up the California League before a promotion to Double-A. But the baseball landscape is littered with guys who tore up the California League and Lancaster, home of Houston's affiliate, is a notorious hitter's park. Ten of Phillips' 14 home runs with Lancaster came at home and since his promotion to Double-A he's hit just one home run in 31 games. Still, he's hitting .321/.372/.463 with Corpus Cristi with eight doubles and four triples. He can run a bit and several scouts called him the best player in the California League. The Brewers probably have their center fielder of the future, a kid who might be ready midseason next year.
Santana is a boom-or-best right fielder, a player who has been on the prospect landscape for years, ever since the Astros got him from the Phillies in 2011 in the Hunter Pence trade. He hit .256/.310/.462 with two home runs in 17 games earlier this season with the Astros and has put up good numbers in the Pacific Coast League. He's still pretty young -- he turns 23 in a few days -- and if he can control the strikeouts has a chance to provide above-average offense.
Hader and Houser bring some pitching depth, two arms currently in Double-A, with Hader owning a Chris Sale-type three-quarters delivery and lows-90s fastball but still developing his offspeed stuff.
All in all, a pretty good haul, albeit with perhaps a little less certainty than the Brewers originally would have received from the Mets in Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores (although with Wheeler coming off Tommy John surgery, he hardly could be classified as risk-free).
It looks a win-win deal for me. Especially if Gomez helps the Astros avoid that wild-card game.