Astros' all-time Top 5 in-season trades
Bagwell deal in 1990 remains among baseball's biggest steals
When Jeff Bagwell retired in 2006, Larry Andersen joked that he was personally disappointed by the news, only because it meant he wouldn't get nearly as much attention for being notoriously on the wrong end of what's considered one of the worst trades in Red Sox history.
The Andersen-Bagwell swap in 1990 was extremely unpopular among the Astros' fanbase. Andersen -- goofy, fun, charismatic and a pretty decent relief pitcher -- was a favorite in Houston, while Bagwell, a Double-A third baseman stuck behind, among others, Wade Boggs and Tim Naehring, was largely unknown and completely unproven.
Bostonians shrugged their shoulders at the news and went on with their days, except for noted baseball reporter Peter Gammons, who looked at the press release announcing the trade, ripped it up in disgust and walked two miles home from Fenway.
Clearly, Gammons knew something few others did, except for Bagwell's Double-A manager, Butch Hobson, and Red Sox GM Lou Gorman, who admitted he had a sinking feeling he was giving away a gold mine in Bagwell. They were right, as we all found out 449 home runs later.
The Astros have made several in-season and/or Trade Deadline deals over the years that have helped them both in the short term and the long run. Some were made with that year's postseason in mind, while others, like the Andersen-Bagwell swap, were designed during times of rebuilding.
Here are our Top 5 in-season trades for Houston, beginning with the best:
1. Aug. 30, 1990: Astros acquire third baseman Jeff Bagwell from the Red Sox for right-hander Larry Andersen.
A New England native and lifelong Red Sox fan, Bagwell, along with his mom and grandmother, was devastated when he was traded. But his dad said, "I looked at this team. They're young. They're building. I think you have a good chance to get to the big leagues."
Pops was right. Although Bagwell was stuck behind Ken Caminiti on the third-base depth chart, the Astros watched him tear through pitching during Spring Training in 1991 and decided they needed to figure out a way to work him onto the roster. They called him in the manager's office, threw him a first baseman's glove and said, "Would you like to play third base in [Triple-A] Tucson or first base in Houston?"
Bagwell went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year in 1991 and NL MVP Award in '94. He finished his career with 449 homers and 1,529 RBIs, while making four All-Star appearances and collecting three Silver Slugger Awards and one Gold Glove.
2. June 24, 2004: Astros acquire outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Royals for catcher John Buck. Right-hander Octavio Dotel was sent to Oakland in the three-team swap.
Although Houston didn't win the pennant that year, the Astros took the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals to a Game 7. It's pretty likely they never would have gotten that far without Beltran, who hit eight home runs during the playoffs -- four in the NL Division Series and four in the NLCS. He hit .455 in the first round against the Braves and .417 against the Cardinals.
Although Beltran left for the Mets via free agency that offseason, his postseason will go down as the best individual offensive performance in club history.
3. July 31, 1998: Astros acquire left-hander Randy Johnson from the Mariners for right-hander Freddy Garcia, infielder Carlos Guillen and a player to be named later (left-hander John Halama).
The Astros knew they would have to give up a ton to get Johnson, who was a couple of months away from free agency and possessed one of the most electric -- if not the most electric -- arms in baseball. And they did. Garcia and Guillen were among the most coveted prospects in Houston's talent-laden system, and this trade, while well worth it at the time, was somewhat of a gut-punch for then GM Gerry Hunsicker.
Although the Astros lost in the NLDS against the Padres, falling well short of World Series expectations after winning 102 games, Hunsicker said he had no regrets about making the Johnson deal. The Dome was rocking on days "The Big Unit" pitched, and Houston compiled the best regular-season record in club history.
Johnson signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks that offseason.
4. Aug. 30, 1982: Astros acquire outfielder Kevin Bass, left-hander Frank Dipino and left-hander Mike Madden from the Brewers for right-hander Don Sutton
It may seem a little silly to categorize a deal in which a team trades away a future Hall of Famer as "good," but in this case, Houston succeeded in getting something good in exchange for giving something up. Which is, of course, the point. Bass spent eight seasons with the Astros after that trade, and two more later in his career, and played a big part in the 1986 team that played an exciting, hard-fought NLCS against the Mets.
Bass played in at least 150 games each season from 1985-88, and over 10 years with the club, he hit .278. Dipino contributed to the Astros as well, proving to be a serviceable closer for a couple of years, including 1983, when he saved 20 games.
5. Aug. 31, 1981: Astros acquire Phil Garner from the Pirates for infielder Johnny Ray, left-hander Randy Niemann and left-hander Kevin Houston.
Garner was a World Series star for the Pirates in 1979, hitting .500 to help lead the Bucs to a championship against the Orioles, which happens to be the last time a visiting team won a Game 7 in the World Series.
Less than two years later, "Scrap Iron" joined the Astros and was part of that beloved 1986 playoff club. Garner played for Houston for seven seasons, including five full, during which he averaged 136 games played and hit .260.