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Astros add Sanchez, Biagini; Maldonado returns

@brianmctaggart
July 31, 2019

CLEVELAND -- While they may have served as the appetizer for the blockbuster deal the Astros pulled off on Wednesday to land Zack Greinke, Houston's aim to improve led to the club making three additional deals prior to Wednesday's Trade Deadline. The Astros acquired starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez, reliever Joe

CLEVELAND -- While they may have served as the appetizer for the blockbuster deal the Astros pulled off on Wednesday to land Zack Greinke, Houston's aim to improve led to the club making three additional deals prior to Wednesday's Trade Deadline.

The Astros acquired starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez, reliever Joe Biagini and Minor League outfielder Cal Stevenson in a trade with the Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Derek Fisher, as well as veteran catcher Martín Maldonado from the Cubs for Tony Kemp. Houston also sent catcher Max Stassi to the Angels for Minor League outfielders Rainier Rivas and Raider Uceta.

Sanchez and Biagini could join the big league club as early as Thursday’s series finale against the Indians, but manager AJ Hinch wasn’t prepared to say what roles the right-handers will serve. Maldonado arrived at Progressive Field early in Wednesday’s game.

“We’ve been interested in Sanchez for a long time and interested in Biagini for a long time,” Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Sanchez, 27, has struggled mightily this year, going 3-14 with a 6.07 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. An All-Star in 2016, Sanchez has had two injury-shorted campaigns over the past two seasons before returning to health in '19. A first-round pick by the Blue Jays in '10, Sanchez has made 146 Major League appearances (92 starts) in his career, posting a 32-33 record and a 3.96 ERA.

It's possible Sanchez could start Saturday’s game against the Mariners at Minute Maid Park for his Astros debut.

“Ideally, he’s a starter for us next year,” Luhnow said. “Whether or not he’s more impactful this year in the rotation or in the bullpen remains to be seen. I’m going to get [pitching coach Brent Strom] and AJ to figure that out. His last outing was dominant, and if he does that, it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the rotation.”

Biagini, 29, made 50 relief appearances for the Blue Jays this season, posting a 3-1 record with 10 holds and a 3.78 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched. He’s worked primarily as the Blue Jays setup man, pitching 41 1/3 of his innings in the seventh inning or later.

“Quite frankly, we love Biagini,” Luhnow said. “We think he’s got a chance to get some important outs for us the rest of the season.”

The strong-armed Maldonado, 32, played for the Astros last year and hit .231 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 41 games after coming over from the Angels in a trade. He started six of seven games he appeared in during last year's postseason for the Astros.

“We really felt like given what he did for us last year and his ability to catch and throw and his connection with our pitching staff, this was the perfect guy to bring in to couple with our catchers so far and make sure we’ve got a tandem that’s both offensive and defensive and can help us win games,” Luhnow said.

Maldonado will ease the workload of Robinson Chirinos, who entered Wednesday slashing .237/.363/.447 with 13 homers and 41 RBIs as the Astros' starter. Stassi, who was hitting .167 in 31 games, sat with Hinch for 30 minutes in the visiting dugout at Progressive Field following the trade.

“Just talking about baseball and life, his career, my career, the growth that I’ve seen out of him and a little bit of the unknown,” Hinch said. “It’s not the first time he’s changed organization and changed teams, but this felt like home for him.”

Stassi was one of the longest-tenured members of the team, making his debut in 2013 and splitting the next five seasons between the big leagues and Triple-A. He was on the big league roster for all of last season. This year, the Astros couldn’t carry three catchers through August, so they had to trade him.

“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions,” Stassi said. “I’ve spent kind of some time to reflect on being a part of this organization for so long. These guys, they’ve been brothers to me since day one. I’ve been with George [Springer] since 2013, [Alex Bregman] ever since he got drafted, [Jose] Altuve since 2013. I’ve known these guys for years, and this is something I’ll never forget my time here.”

Kemp, who was designated for assignment July 25, also said leaving the Astros brought mixed emotions.

“Leaving that group behind was emotional because of how genuine everyone in that clubhouse was day in and day out,” Kemp said. “From the parking garage staff, clubhouse staff, to the community relations team, and to the coaches and teammates, each person brought their best attitude each day, and that’s why the Astros are one of the best organizations in baseball. As for this next chapter, I’m excited to join the Chicago Cubs and help contribute in any way to help this team win.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.