On Thursday, the Houston Astros sent a message to their fanbase, and it was loud and clear: We want to get back.
Back on track. Back to the postseason. Back into position as one of baseball's up-and-coming contenders.
The message was delivered with a pair of moves. The 'Stros engineered a trade with the New York Yankees, flipping pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman for veteran catcher Brian McCann, per the Yankees PR staff. They also inked right fielder Josh Reddick to a four-year, $52 million deal, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.
With that, Houston plugged holes behind the dish and in the outfield and added a pair of solid veteran pieces to bolster the club's youthful core.
Let's start with McCann. The 32-year-old backstop became superfluous for the Yankees after the emergence of rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. While he isn't the player who made seven All-Star teams between 2006 and 2013 with the Atlanta Braves, he still has value.
He'll replace free-agent catcher Jason Castro, also a lefty swinger, and represents an offensive upgrade across the board:
|2016: McCann vs. Castro|
|Brian McCann (NYY)||.242||20||.748|
|Jason Castro (HOU)||.210||11||.684|
McCann is owed $17 million in each of the next two seasons, but the Yankees will pay $5.5 million of that, per ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney. In turn, the 'Stros surrendered some talent. Abreu became the No. 10 prospect in New York's loaded farm system, per MLB.com.
It takes something to get something—and Houston got something.
"Brian McCann is a great fit for the Astros, as he is not only a good defensive catcher, he is also a left-handed hitter with proven run-producing ability," general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement, per the Houston Chronicle's Jake Kaplan. "His experience and his ability to impact his teammates will be a significant benefit to our team."
In 2015, however, he hit .272 with 20 home runs, and he's a plus defensive outfielder who could slot into left with George Springer the unmovable incumbent in right.
Reddick—like McCann—represents an upgrade over his predecessor, free agent Colby Rasmus, who posted a .206/.286/.355 slash line in 2016. Reddick hit .281/.345/.405.
A four-year commitment north of $50 million may raise a few eyebrows, but it could end up being below market value in a weak free-agent class.
In 2015, the Astros finished 86-76, slid into the postseason as a wild card and pushed the eventual champion Kansas City Royals to five games in a division series.
Last year, they missed the dance with an 84-78 mark and wore the scarlet "R" for regression.
Still, Houston boasts an enviable offensive core, headlined by second baseman Jose Altuve (.338 average, 24 HR, 30 SB), shortstop Carlos Correa (.274 average, 20 HR, 96 RBI), Springer (.815 OPS, 29 HR, 82 RBI) and 2015 No. 2 overall pick Alex Bregman.
Astros starting pitchers ranked in the middle of the MLB pack in 2016 with a 4.37 ERA, with 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel taking a big stumble. The bullpen is a strength, but Houston could use more pitching, even after signing sinkerballer Charlie Morton to a two-year, incentive-laden deal Wednesday, per Kaplan.
The 'Stros, though, are squarely in the mix in the wide-open AL West. The defending division champion Texas Rangers are nominal favorites, but Houston is a few key moves from vaulting over the hump.
The takeaway, however, is that the Astros are being aggressive early. They're filling needs. They want to get back.