Houston Astros: The Five Best Deals in History
Like Rome, a good baseball team can't be built in a day, but—with the right trade—the process can be reduced significantly with the right trade.
Let's not kid ourselves: We know what the best trade in Houston Astros history is. Despite that, there are four other deals that helped shape the franchise which deserve our consideration.
Honorable Mention: Astros/Padres, Dec. 28, 1994
In the midst of the lockout, the Astros and Padres managed to wheat the baseball appetite of both fan bases with a 12-player deal.
The Astros received OF Derek Bell, SS Ricky Gutierrez, RP Doug Brocail, P Pedro (not THAT one) Martinez, and INF Craig Shipley for 3B Ken Caminiti, SS Andujar Cedeno, CF Steve Finley, LF Phil Plantier, 1B Roberto Petagine, P Brian Williams, and minor league P Sean Fesh.
The trade worked out well for both sides, as Bell hit .284-74-444 while starting for three NL Central title teams in Houston. Gutierrez served as a valuable utility infielder from 1995-99, while Brocail appeared in 59 games from 1995-96 and served as part of the deal that brought Jose Lima and Brad Ausmus to Houston in 1996.
While the Astros benefited, the Padres parlayed their Texas gold into the foundation of 1996 and '98 NL West title teams. Caminiti won the NL MVP in '96, while Finley won two Gold Gloves. The duo was instrumental in San Diego's NL pennant run in 1998, in which they defeated the Astros in the Divisional Series.
No. 5: Astros/Orioles, Dec. 3, 1974
With his path to the majors blocked by Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, Baltimore made 3B Enos Cabell expendable, thus opening the door for them to acquire slugging 1B Lee May and minor leaguer Jay Schlueter in exchange for Cabell and infielder Rob Andrews.
While May gave the Orioles four straight 20 home run seasons, he also gave manager Earl Weaver a migraine with OBPs (.312 or lower in all six seasons with Baltimore) that would make a stathead cry.
Meanwhile, Cabell provided eight seasons with Houston, starting at either first or third in seven of those campaigns. Cabell hit .281 as an Astro, delivering 1,141 hits and 191 stolen bases. His best season came in 1977, when he put up .313-16-78 and 42 steals.
Cabell remains a fixture in the Astros organization, having served in a variety of roles over the past two decades.
No. 4: Astros/Mariners, Dec. 3, 1993
Tiring of OF Eric Anthony's inconsistency, the Astros dealt the big left-handed slugger to the Emerald City in exchange for a short, lefty hurler who produced numbers that loomed larger than his 5'11", 190-pound frame would suggest.
After spending 1994 as a middle reliever, the Astros moved Hampton into the starting rotation the following season, where he went 9-8 with a solid 3.35 ERA. He became entrenched in Houston's rotation for the next four seasons, compiling a 58-39 record.
Hampton's best season came in 1999, where he went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He made his first All-Star team while finishing second in the National League Cy Young Award chase and earned a Silver Slugger honor after hitting .311.
Anthony lasted just one season with Seattle before bouncing to Cincinnati, Colorado and the Dodgers before leaving the majors for good in 1997.
No. 3: Astros/Tigers, Dec. 10, 1996
After enduring the likes of Rick Wilkins, Tony Eusebio, and Randy Knorr behind the plate in 1996, the Astros found their solution when they dealt Ps Doug Brocail and Todd Jones, OF Brian Hunter and SS Orlando Miller to Detroit for C Brad Ausmus, Ps C.J. Nitkowski, Trever Miller, Jose Lima, and 1B Daryle Ward.
The package was fruitful for the Astros, as Lima went 37-18 in 1998-99, Miller became a reliable arm in the bullpen and Ward gave the club a potent bat as a part-time starter from 1999-2002. But it was Ausmus that gave the franchise a much-needed presence behind the plate.
Ausmus played two seasons with Houston before being traded back Detroit in 1999. He played two years with the Tigers and was traded back to Houston prior to the 2001 season. From there, Ausmus became one of the game's best defensive catchers, earning five Gold Gloves from 2001-06.
While his career .246 average with the Astros reminded no one of Johnny Bench, Ausmus' presence behind the plate was critical to the success of the Astros, who made four playoff appearances and the 2005 NL title with him as the franchise's quarterback.
No. 2: Astros/Mets, Dec. 10, 1982
Four less-than- impressive seasons from their second round pick in 1976 led the Mets to jettison Scott to Houston in exchange for another disappointing selection, Danny Heep (second round, 1978).
After 10-6 and 5-11 seasons in 1983-84, Scott found the wonders of the split-fingered fastball and went 18-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 1985. The following season, Scott delivered perhaps the most remarkable campaign by an Astros hurler, going 18-10 with an airtight 2.22 ERA and 303 strikeouts.
Scott clinched the National League West title with a no-hitter against San Francisco on the afternoon of September 25 and went 2-0 with an 0.50 ERA in two starts against the Mets in the NLCS, striking out 19 in the process. He wrapped up his season with the NL Cy Young award.
Scott went 50-31 in his next three seasons, making two All-Star teams and finishing second for the 1989 NL Cy Young. He wrapped up his career in 1991 after going 110-81 with a 3.30 ERA as an Astro.
No. 1: Astros/Red Sox, Aug. 30, 1990
The Red Sox should have known they had made a mistake when Peter Gammons said Bagwell would be a future batting champion.
While RP Larry Andersen played a role in Boston's American League East title run, Bagwell helped transform a franchise while leaving a dent in the baseball record books. After moving from third base in the spring of 1991, Bagwell—along with 2B Craig Biggio—became the heart and soul of Astros from 1991-2005.
A lifetime .297 hitter, Bagwell hit 449 career homers and drove in 1,529 runs with an impressive .408 OBP and 202 stolen bases. He was named the National League's MVP in 1994 (.368-39-116 in only 110 games) and became the only first baseman to record a 30-30 season (43 homers, 31 steals) in 1997.
Bagwell is ranked among Houston's leaders in a variety of categories and is tops in homers, RBI, and walks.