Email Exchange: Houston Astros Prove Fantasy Is Reality

drunk gms

Today’s article: “Leaked: 10 Months Of The Houston Astros’ Internal Trade Talks,” Barry Petchesky, Deadspin

Michael Rosen:

So, note to our faithful readers (Hi Mom): we understand that this piece was not from today, breaking our time-worn tradition of only exchanging on articles written on the same day of the exchange. HOWEVER, we did not do an exchange yesterday, as half of the exchange’s constituents were busy celebrating turning legal drinking age in Disneyland or something, so we feel okay talking about a Monday article. Also, this one was too good to pass up, so, yeah, here we go.

Wow. This is a veritable treasure chest of info, and there’s just so many interesting things to get to here. Pretty much every national media outlet has linked to the Deadspin piece and added their own comments, and so I’ll just get those out of the way first. Everyone essentially agrees that the biggest trade discussed here is the Giancarlo Stanton for George Springer and Carlos Correa proposal. Many others have also scoffed at the Astros attempting to acquire top prospect Lucas Gioloto for Lucas Harrell, who was DFA’d at some point in the near future. Also, poor Lucas Harrell: people have just been making fun of how he’s absolutely worthless for like a day now.

Those are the big ones, but there are some other fun notes in here that most have not seemed to comment on. Take, for example, the note from June 26, 2013: “[Orioles GM Dan Duquette] called [Astros GM Jeff Luhnow] and expressed continued interest in Norris. JL said that for us to consider it at this point it would have to revolve around Bundy or Gaussman. DD said no on Gaussman but did not dismiss Bundy out of hand.”

How crazy is that?! Dylan Bundy, albeit injured, was thought of as one of the better pitching prospects of the last decade before going down. Bud Norris is mediocre AT BEST, and is mostly terrible, and the Astros had no leverage, since everyone knew they were trading all of their veterans. And the Orioles still didn’t dismiss Bundy out of hand! I find that absolutely fascinating, and I think that it shows MLB GMs are just as big of dicks about offering lopsided trades as I am in my fantasy baseball league.

Really, if you go through all of the offers Luhnow was making for Norris, it’s top prospects all the way down the line. Gregory Polanco, Xander Bogearts, Bundy, Gioloto; it’s like a who’s-who of top prospects. Do you think this strategy of shooting for the moon is one common with all general managers, or do you think this is an Astros-specific phenomenon?

Also, as I’m sure you saw, Ichiro was in talks to be sent to Houston. Do you think he just retires on the spot if he gets traded there? Imagining Ichiro toiling away in those hideous Houston uniforms on that terrible team makes me want to cry. I’d hope he has more honor than that.

I could probably go down through every single transaction here and point out what I find fascinating, but I don’t want this to drag too long. Basically, this is really, really interesting info for any diehard baseball fan. It’s not just the players that are discussed; it’s the language they use in their discourse, the throwaway comments of opposing GMs. I could read this for hours. What did you find the most fascinating about all this, Cam?

Cameron Seib:

The Bundy note stunned me. Check out this article from FanGraphs. Newman writes, “Dylan Bundy is the pitching prospect who I’ve heard repeatedly referred to as, ‘The best I’ve ever seen’ by contacts and acquaintances who have seen him in person.” Granted, the piece was a year old at the time of the trade talks in question, and, yeah, Bundy was hurt. But still. He was a consensus top-five prospect at the beginning of 2013, and, just a few months later, the Orioles apparently considered structuring a deal around him for Bumfuck Norris.

On a related note, Dan Duquette, the Baltimore exec who didn’t laugh Houston’s offer into oblivion, took over as the Orioles’ GM after the 2011 season. His team made the playoffs the following year, followed by a solid 85-win in 2013, and are again in the Wild Card hunt this season. Thank you, leaked Houston trade talks, for giving me hope that a team (aka the Mariners) can remain competitive despite employing a first-year fantasy participant at its helm.

After reading the piece, I spent a while mulling the proposed Giancarlo trade (quick digression: why’d he drop the name Mike? I loved making jokes that a 90s LOOGY had recreated himself as the power hitter of the 10s). Mike, who wins that deal, Houston or Miami? I say the Astros. Springer, as good as he’s been, is not anywhere as good as Giancarlo, and is also two months older. And Correa, though a top-five prospect in all of baseball, is still a teenager and so, so many questions thus remain. The only question that remains with Stanton is, will he make the Hall of Fame? Marlins management has since denied they offered this deal (surprise), but if they actually did, I don’t know why Houston didn’t accept. Maybe they didn’t think they’d have enough talent around Giancarlo to field a winning team before the slugger hit free agency?

Overall, the most intriguing aspect of the leaks has to be how frequently Houston made absurd offers. Bundy was mentioned, but he was just one attempted major acquisition alongside a sea of big names. That said, I know Houston’s front office and team-building strategy are often lauded by baseball intellects. Is this form of lowballing commonplace among the league’s best GMs? Maybe Houston’s management realizes they work with a bunch of airheads, and figure they’ll successfully rip one of them off if they try enough times. Or, perhaps the Astros’ front office is just privy to some insider evaluation-techniques, specifically concerning Bud Norris’s hidden greatness?

Last thing I want to bring up for you, Mike. Do you think there are any ethical concerns involved in Deadspin publicizing this information? They weren’t the ones who initially leaked it, but they are responsible for it making headlines. You could argue that posting the internal talks unfairly targeted one team, and will now handicap said team in real life. Then again, the information they posted didn’t really give away any important “secrets” – nothing about how Houston evaluates talent or exploits the market was revealed. I think the only reason this information was considered so ripely juicy was because it gave outsiders evidence that all those theoretical trade talks they imagine while pleasuring themselves actually go on between the guys that make the trades happen.

MR:

I don’t know why Mike switched over to Giancarlo, but it’s given me some inspiration to change my own name to something exotic. From now on, I’m going by Giancarlo Rosen. I mean, I guess I can see where he’s coming from; Mike isn’t the most original name out there, and so maybe he thought switching over to Giancarlo helps his marketability and exposure? You’re much more likely to remember someone named Giancarlo than Mike. Anyway, this isn’t interesting.

I’ll have to disagree with you on the idea that the Astros would win that Stanton trade, though, and pretty vehemently as well. You outlined the obvious: Stanton is a great, great player, one likely to be hanging around the +5 to +6 WAR range for the next seven or eight years. But Stanton is a corner outfielder, a commodity that’s easier to find a good player at. Springer and Correa project to be if not Stanton’s quality of player, then just slightly below it, and at positions with a dearth of quality players. Springer and Correa are about as sure thing as it gets, and they play centerfield and shortstop, respectively. I’ll take two future All-Stars (and possible MVP candidates) at CF and SS over one MVP candidate in RF any day. The only thing that might give me pause is the fact that Correa just got hurt, but it seems like it was a fluke injury more than anything.

My reflexive reaction when I heard some voicing ethical concerns over Deadspin publicizing the information was to absolve them of all fault, honestly, and I didn’t dwell on it much afterwards. They didn’t leak the info, it’s out there in the open, and so the onus of blame ought to go on the site that hosts those leaked documents. Part of that gut reaction, though, probably has to do with my sympathy towards Deadspin. There’s a legion of Deadspin haters out there in the world, and to me it seems a lot of that hate is misguided. Some seem to not understand what Deadspin is all about, and I think I naturally feel defensive towards them as a whole when anyone starts to attack them for any given reason. In this particular case, though, I don’t think the anger is justified. Like you said, this info is essentially harmless, and although, yes, they’re being more attention to the info than it would have received if it was just sitting on some weird-ass leaked info site, some other media outlet was bound to stumble across it and post it themselves if Deadspin didn’t.

I don’t know why Mike switched over to Giancarlo, but it’s given me some inspiration to change my own name to something exotic. From now on, I’m going by Giancarlo Rosen. I mean, I guess I can see where he’s coming from; Mike isn’t the most original name out there, and so maybe he thought switching over to Giancarlo helps his marketability and exposure? You’re much more likely to remember someone named Giancarlo than Mike. Anyway, this isn’t interesting.

I’ll have to disagree with you on the idea that the Astros would win that Stanton trade, though, and pretty vehemently as well. You outlined the obvious: Stanton is a great, great player, one likely to be hanging around the +5 to +6 WAR range for the next seven or eight years. But Stanton is a corner outfielder, a commodity that’s easier to find a good player at. Springer and Correa project to be if not Stanton’s quality of player, then just slightly below it, and at positions with a dearth of quality players. Springer and Correa are about as sure thing as it gets, and they play centerfield and shortstop, respectively. I’ll take two future All-Stars (and possible MVP candidates) at CF and SS over one MVP candidate in RF any day. The only thing that might give me pause is the fact that Correa just got hurt, but it seems like it was a fluke injury more than anything.

My reflexive reaction when I heard some voicing ethical concerns over Deadspin publicizing the information was to absolve them of all fault, honestly, and I didn’t dwell on it much afterwards. They didn’t leak the info, it’s out there in the open, and so the onus of blame ought to go on the site that hosts those leaked documents. Part of that gut reaction, though, probably has to do with my sympathy towards Deadspin. There’s a legion of Deadspin haters out there in the world, and to me it seems a lot of that hate is misguided. Some seem to not understand what Deadspin is all about, and I think I naturally feel defensive towards them as a whole when anyone starts to attack them for any given reason. In this particular case, though, I don’t think the anger is justified. Like you said, this info is essentially harmless, and although, yes, they’re being more attention to the info than it would have received if it was just sitting on some weird-ass leaked info site, some other media outlet was bound to stumble across it and post it themselves if Deadspin didn’t.

CS:

If you’re considering a name change, I’d suggest Shrew Rosencrantz. It’s not too far a stretch from your actual name. It recalls dear childhood friends Buck, Tiger, Ian Metz, and Cole Mitchell. And it shows you can reference Shakespeare, so you’d be guaranteed a job in any university’s English department.

How can you say Springer or Correa projects to be near Stanton’s level? Springer is on pace for a 2.6-WAR season. Giancarlo put up that good of a season, in only 100 games, four years ago. Four years ago, Springer was older than Giancarlo. Four years ago, Giancarlo was 20, the earliest age at which FanGraphs envisions Correa making a late-season MLB debut. Maybe you argue that, including contract considerations alongside talent projections, a Springer-Correa pairing will one day be more valuable than a lone Giancarlo. But don’t act like those two could ever be assumed to develop into what Giancarlo has.

What absolves Deadspin of any blame, in my opinion, is, again, that the information shared is harmless. Unless your name starts with a “B” and rhymes with “ud Norris,” you’re not any worse off for this info being shared. Had the leaks involved some evaluative methods that only Houston knew of, though, I think Deadspin could be at fault. Sharing potentially-impactful private information is always an ethical breach of trust, and in this instance, that breach of trust occurred via a factual breach of law. Sure, you could argue that a number of other media outlets would’ve shared this same info had Deadspin not, but that’s flawed logic. If Vladimir Putin didn’t sell AK-47s to blood-thirsty Syrians, then surely someone else would, but that doesn’t mean Putin’s chillin’. I don’t know why I’m arguing this because, again, the only reason these leaks were interesting were for purposes of rosterbation.

U.S.-Belgium is in an hour and a half. I gotta go. Screw good beer, screw good waffles.

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