Astros deal Happ, Lyon, get prospects in 10-man deal
Brian McTaggart and Adam Berry
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STON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has maintained since he took the job seven months ago that his goal is to rebuild the club through the Minor League system. Luhnow certainly hasn't been shy about sticking to that plan, and on Friday, he pulled off a 10-player trade with the Blue Jays.
The Astros shipped veteran starting pitcher J.A. Happ, veteran reliever Brandon Lyon and Minor League reliever David Carpenter to Toronto in exchange for seven players -- reliever Francisco Cordero, outfielder Ben Francisco, four Minor League prospects and a player to be named later.
Cordero and Francisco joined the club Friday in Phoenix.
It's the second major trade Luhnow has pulled off this month, having sent Carlos Lee to the Marlins on July 4 in exchange for two prospects. Earlier this year, he shipped veteran catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois to Kansas City for two Minor Leaguers.
Luhnow said the four prospects Houston added to its system -- right-handers Asher Wojciechowski and Joe Musgrove, left-hander David Rollins and catcher Carlos Perez -- are more important to the club's long-term goals.
"We're very excited about the prospects that we're getting back, and felt like this was a deal we needed to do to further our mission in Houston, which is to develop the best young talent in baseball," Luhnow said. "We need arms. It's one of the things we were desperately trying to address, and by getting Wojciechowski, getting Musgrove and getting Rollins, we feel like we've really added to our depth."
Prospects acquired by Astros
Carlos Perez, C: He has the chance to be a good all-around catcher. Good catch-and-throw skills. Took a step backward with the bat in 2011, but can hit for average and get on base.
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP: Sandwich pick in 2010 was up and down in 2011, but much better this year in the Florida State League. Good power arsenal with a chance to be durable frontline starter with a three-pitch mix. Also has the stuff and mentality to pitch in the back end of a bullpen if needed.
Joe Musgrove, RHP: Big right-hander taken in the 2011 supplemental first round could be the best player in this deal when all is said and done. Heavy, sinking fastball gets ground balls. Complements the heater with a curve and splitter. Sidelined by shoulder soreness this season, but that's not expected to be a long-term issue.
David Rollins, LHP: Lefty has shaken off two surgeries to his non-throwing shoulder as an amateur to have a very strong first full season. Good three-pitch mix with sinker, slider and changeup. At age 22, he could start moving forward a little more quickly.
This is the third year in a row the Astros have stripped away high-priced veterans from their roster in exchange for mostly prospects.
Happ, acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline two years ago in the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to the Phillies, was making $2.35 million this year and stood to get a raise next year in arbitration. He was an unspectacular 18-28 with a 4.84 ERA in his two years in Houston, including 7-9 with a 4.83 ERA this year.
Lyon, who missed most of last season after undergoing arm surgery and bounced back nicely this year, was in the final year of a three-year, $15 million deal that paid him $5.5 million in 2012. Lyon, 32, was excited to return to Toronto, where he began his career a decade ago.
"I'm excited there's another team out there that's willing to give me an opportunity like Houston did, and hopefully I can continue to show what I'm capable of doing," Lyon told MLB.com.
The acquisition of Cordero ($4.5 million) and Francisco ($1.54 million) just about offsets what the Astros were paying Lyon and Happ, and it's unlikely either player is in Houston's long-term plans. It's no secret the Astros are still shopping closer Brett Myers and starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Luhnow said the deal with Toronto had been in the works for several weeks. He said he had spoken consistently with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos over the last two weeks, but talks intensified the past two days. The deal was completed late Thursday night and announced as soon as both clubs informed their players.
"We knew we were giving up Major League value," Luhnow said. "But we figured we could invest in the future here by getting five Minor League prospects that we really liked."
Cordero will join the bullpen and pitch in late-inning situations, but Luhnow said Myers will remain the Astros' closer. Luhnow admitted it was difficult to give up Happ, especially after Monday's strong outing against the Padres.
"But when we're talking about picking up five Minor League players that we like, obviously we've got to give some value to get some value," Luhnow said. "In this case, Happ has a lot of value, and we felt like that was a piece that was necessary in order to get what we got."
The 23-year-old Wojciechowski, MLB.com's No. 10 prospect in Toronto's system, could be the first to make it to the big leagues, Luhnow said. The 41st pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft has been pitching in the Florida State League for two seasons, and he's put up a 7-3 record and 3.57 ERA in 18 starts for Class A Dunedin this year.
Luhnow wanted to challenge Wojciechowski immediately by sending him to Double-A Corpus Christi with the hope that he'll be in big league camp next spring, and potentially in the Astros' Major League rotation by the end of the 2013 season.
Perez might be the next of these prospects to reach the Majors. The 21-year-old backstop was batting .269 with five homers and 40 RBIs for Class A Lansing this year, and Luhnow said Perez fits the organization's profile for an everyday big league catcher. He will report to Class A Advanced Lancaster.
"We feel like catching is one of the areas where we really needed to get some more depth and some Major League prospects," Luhnow said. "Perez is a guy that we believe fits the type of profile we're looking for -- a guy that can produce offensively. He's an on-base type of player, and he's defensively able to do the things that you need to do to maintain that position."
Musgrove, 19, was picked 46th overall in the 2011 Draft, and he is 1-1 with a 3.51 ERA over two pro seasons. He will stay in the Appalachian League and pitch for the Greeneville Astros. Rollins, 22, is 10-1 with a 2.46 ERA over two professional seasons in the Blue Jays' system, and he will remain in Class A.
"Rollins has been very effective. He's on a team that has a lot of highly touted arms for the Blue Jays, and he's the youngest guy on that team," Luhnow said. "He's done very well, and we expect him to continue to do well. Being left-handed helps us out.
"To be able to add three arms of that caliber in one trade really was a key reason why we did it."