Astros fill needs with Mancini, Vázquez, Will Smith deals

August 2nd, 2022

HOUSTON -- The Astros fulfilled three of their biggest needs at the Trade Deadline on a whirlwind couple of days when they acquired first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini from the Orioles, catcher Christian Vázquez from the Red Sox and lefty reliever Will Smith from the Braves in separate deals.

Mancini comes over in a three-team deal with the Rays and Orioles. Vázquez was acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for infielder Enmanuel Valdez (the Astros’ No. 28 prospect) and outfielder Wilyer Abreu (No. 29 prospect). The Astros traded veteran pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Braves for Smith on Tuesday.

Speaking about the the additions of Mancini and Vázquez, general manager James Click said they should provide immediate help.

“Our focus is to try to put [ourselves] in the best position that we can to compete for a World Series [title] this year,” he said. “These are two guys we think can help us get there.”

The Astros are still in the market for help in center field ahead of Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline.

Mancini gives the Astros a veteran right-handed bat that will fill out their lineup nicely with his ability to play first base, designated hitter and even left field, where veteran Michael Brantley is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Click said both Mancini and Vázquez are “high-contact” hitters, which is something they valued.

“That was part of the appeal ... we knew [Mancini] could go out to a corner-outfield spot, he could play first base, he could DH,” he said. “He’s a really valuable bat off the bench. I think one of the most appealing things about him is he hits lefties and righties very well for us, and in a pinch-hit situation late in a game, he could be a real weapon on both sides.”

Mancini, a cancer survivor, has a $10 million mutual option for 2023 and has hit .268/.347/.404 with 10 homers this year and could feast at Minute Maid Park. Based on Statcast metrics, Mancini could potentially have around 17 homers instead of 10 if he'd been an Astro all year, playing his home games in Houston, where Minute Maid Park has a short left-field porch.

“I'm thrilled to be a part of the organization,” Mancini said. “They've had such a consistently good team for a lot of years, and they're having another great year this year. So I'm excited to be a part of it and. Yeah, it's crazy. But yeah, like I said, wasn't expecting anything to happen today. So I'm still just kind of taking it all in. … But definitely excited to see what the rest of this year holds in Houston.”

The Astros sent outfielder Jose Siri to the Rays and their No. 12 prospect, right-hander Chayce McDermott, to the O's, while Tampa Bay is sending right-hander (and the team's No. 6 prospect) Seth Johnson to Baltimore and right-hander Jayden Murray to Houston.

Orioles get: RHP Seth Johnson (Rays' No. 6 prospect) and RHP Chayce McDermott (Astros' No. 12 prospect)
Astros get: 1B/DH Trey Mancini (from Orioles) and RHP Jayden Murray (from Rays)
Rays get: OF Jose Siri (from Astros)

Astros get: LHP Will Smith
Braves get: RHP Jake Odorizzi

The Astros have been getting little production this season at first base, where Yuli Gurriel’s performance has dropped off from 2021, when he won the American League batting title. Houston also has lacked production in center field, where Jake Meyers and Chas McCormick are splitting time. Brantley, the starting left fielder, has been out since June 26.

Meanwhile, Vázquez, 31, is hitting .282/.327/.432 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in 84 games this year with the Red Sox, who took him in the ninth round in the 2008 MLB Draft out of Puerto Rico. His four-year, $20.3 million contract expires at the end of this season. Maldonado was slashing .173/.239/.342 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs entering Monday after posting a .852 OPS in July.

“A veteran guy, great game-caller, great behind the plate,” Click said. “He really works well with the staff. We know that he prepares, we know that he knows the scouting report and can execute it. And he's a guy -- having seen him in the AL East for a few years -- he’s never the guy you want coming to the plate when there are runners on. He always seems to find a way to put the bat on the ball and get those guys in.”

Maldonado, who played with Vázquez in winter ball, spoke to his new teammate after Monday’s loss to the Red Sox.

“We talk a lot, and we have a really, really good friendship,” Maldonado said. “[He has] a lot of energy, experience, [he’s a] gamer. A guy that works hard. He brings a lot to this clubhouse. He’s a guy that won a World Series and played many playoff games.”

By trading away Odorizzi, the Astros free up a spot in their six-man rotation, which could see the return of injured right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. soon.

During his 10-year career with the Kansas City Royals (2012-13), Milwaukee Brewers (2014-16), San Francisco Giants (2016-19) and Atlanta Braves (2020-22), Smith has recorded a 3.61 ERA with 640 strikeouts and 91 saves. Smith was named an All-Star in 2019 and was a part of the 2021 World Series champion Braves.