The Houston Astros are already the worst team in Major League Baseball, yet they were the most desirable single team to trade with during the 2011 trade deadline season, and their moves have set the three teams they traded with on a collision course for the NL pennant.
Second baseman Jeff Keppinger was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for a pair of pitchers, Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel.
The move gives the Giants stability at second base, where, throughout the season, they had platooned that position. With the Giants adding Carlos Beltran Wednesday, the Giants suddenly became the favorites to repeat as NL champs.
Until Friday night, when outfielder Hunter Pence was pulled before the start of the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers after being informed that he had just been dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The deal gives Houston back Philadelphia's two best prospects, pitcher Jared Cosart and outfielder Jonathan Singleton.
With Pence, Philadelphia finally lands the right handed hitting outfielder they highly sought after losing Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals, and with that, suddenly, the Phillies were the team to beat.
Then, on Sunday morning, Houston agreed to send centerfielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves for fellow centerfielder Jordan Schafer and three minor league pitching prospects.
The move gives the Braves two things they haven't had since 2005: a leadoff hitter and a stolen base runner. Borne leads the league in stolen bases with 39 and is hitting .303 as a leadoff hitter, and with the move, Atlanta suddenly is the favorite to win the Wild Card, and with a solid team already, could upset the Giants in the NL wild-card.
As for the Astros, they are left with prospects, prospects and more prospects in exchange for a solid leadoff hitter who leads the league in stolen bases, a solid infielder, and the face of their franchise.
Are the moves foolish or, like the resurgent Cleveland Indians, brilliant? Starting in 2008, the Indians destroyed their roster, who was just one win away from appearing in the 2007 World Series.
CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Casey Blake were all dealt away for a bunch of prospects, who, three to four years later, have come back to contribute to the resurgent Indians.
Catcher Carlos Santana, outfielders Michael Brantley and Matt Laporta and pitchers Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco were all pickups of the trades the Indians did.
Did the Houston Astros take a page out of the Indians' playbook and tear apart their non-World Series roster in favor of future gold?
Along with getting rid of Pence, Keppinger and Bourn, Houston last year dealt pitcher Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Both were the faces of the Houston franchise at the time.
In response, Houston landed JA Happ from the Phillies as well as outfielder Anthony Goose, who was promptly traded to the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace, the current starting first baseman.
For Berkman, Houston added pitcher Mark Melancon, the current closer for the Astros.
Years from now, an article, maybe a book, may be written about the brilliance or perhaps foolishness about the Astros management during the 2011 trade deadline season. Only time will tell if the Astros made the right moves. In the meantime, like the Indians, Houston will suffer. Their franchise face is gone, and their 35-win team is decimated.
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