World Series 2021: How the Astros built their AL champion roster through trades, free agency and the draft

For the third time within the final 5 years, the Houston Astros are American League champions. They defeated the Boston Red Sox in six games in the American League Championship Series, and can face both the Braves or the Dodgers within the World Sequence. Houston received the World Sequence in 2017 and misplaced the World Sequence in 2019.

Like each group, the Astros have been assembled by way of all types of totally different strategies. No group is constructed completely by way of the draft, or trades, or free company. It isn’t attainable. Profitable groups purchase expertise by way of each out there avenue. Right here is how the Astros constructed their 26-man postseason roster:

  • Trades: 10
  • Worldwide free company: 6
  • Free company: 5
  • Draft: 5

The Astros have leaned closely on trades. In actual fact, they’ve made a few of the most lopsided trades in latest reminiscence. They’ve additionally accomplished nicely within the draft, notably within the first spherical, and so they’ve made a number of shrewd free agent signings. Let’s take a deeper take a look at how the Astros constructed the roster that carried them to the 2021 World Sequence. 

The draft

In an ideal world groups would draft and develop their total 26-man roster and by no means spend cash on free brokers or quit gamers in trades. That world doesn’t exist. Not even shut. The draft stays the finest (and most value efficient) solution to purchase expertise, and the Astros constructed (most of) their present core on the prime of the draft.

Houston has three excessive first spherical picks on their roster:

The Astros went 56-106 in 2011 and their reward was selecting between Correa and Byron Buxton for the No. 1 decide within the 2012 draft. Buxton is a heck of a participant, although Houston clearly selected correctly. Correa is legit franchise shortstop and he’ll hit free company at age 27 this winter. He’ll grow to be one of many highest paid gamers in MLB historical past.

It must also be famous the Astros chosen ace Lance McCullers Jr. with the No. 41 decide within the 2012 draft. They signed Correa to a under slot bonus (that was one purpose for taking him over Buxton) and gave the financial savings to McCullers. Alas, McCullers suffered a forearm harm within the ALDS and missed the ALCS, and can miss the World Sequence as nicely.

In 2013, the Astros went 51-111, then used the No. 1 decide within the 2014 draft on Brady Aiken. Houston noticed one thing they didn’t like in Aiken’s elbow throughout his bodily, so that they did not signal him, and acquired the No. 2 decide in 2015 as compensation. That decide turned Bregman, and the No. 5 decide that yr was Houston’s pure first rounder. That turned Tucker.  

Selecting on the prime of the draft doesn’t assure success. Yearly errors are made close to the highest of the draft and the Astros aren’t any exception. That they had three straight No. 1 picks from 2012-14 and used them on Correa, Aiken, and Mark Appel. Often going 1 for 3 is fairly good on this sport. With the No. 1 decide although? Eh, you want a greater hit fee.

The Astros tanked to get these excessive draft picks all these years, and whereas they’d some misses alongside the best way, they did very nicely general turning these picks into cornerstone gamers. Correa and Bregman are arguably Houston’s two finest all-around gamers, and Tucker was top-of-the-line hitters in baseball after April this season.

Within the late rounds of the draft the Astros nabbed what quantities to their heart area quasi-platoon in Chas McCormick (twenty first spherical in 2017) and Jake Meyers (thirteenth spherical in 2017). Turning late spherical picks right into a legit large league contributors is a giant win and sometimes separates the great groups from the good groups.


The Astros usually are not batting 1.000 with their trades — the six-player Josh Hader for Carlos Gómez commerce labored out fairly terribly, although that commerce was made by the earlier entrance workplace regime — however they have an inclination to do very nicely when buying gamers from different golf equipment. When Houston calls a few participant, perhaps ask your self what they see that you do not earlier than making the commerce.

Living proof: ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez was acquired earlier than he ever even performed knowledgeable recreation. The Dodgers signed him out of Cuba on June 15, 2016, then traded him to Houston for reliever Josh Fields on Aug. 1, 2016. Alvarez was a member of the Dodgers group for under 46 days, and now he is on the quick checklist of the sport’s most devastating hitters.

Houston acquired Zack Greinke in a five-player commerce with the Diamondbacks on the 2019 deadline, and though Greinke is enormously diminished now, he’ll obtain Corridor of Fame consideration when the time comes. Greinke led Houston with 171 innings pitched through the common season, which is not any small accomplishment at age 38. He helped them get the place they’re now, little doubt. 

Six members of the bullpen came to visit in trades: Yimi García (Marlins), Kendall Graveman (Mariners), Phil Maton (Cleveland), Ryan Pressly (Twins), Brooks Raley (Reds), and Blake Taylor (Mets). The Pressly commerce particularly was a heist, as Minnesota was unable to maximise his high-spin arsenal. Aledmys Díaz (Blue Jays) and Martin Maldonado (Angels) came to visit in small trades.

The one participant on Houston’s postseason roster to return over in a real blockbuster commerce is Greinke. All their different commerce additions got here in smaller, under-the-radar kind strikes, together with Alvarez, who was an unknown on the time of the commerce. Guys like Maton and Raley are unspectacular, although they’re efficient, and so they’ve confirmed to be essential members of the bullpen.

We must also word the Astros acquired Justin Verlander in a commerce in 2017 — it is without doubt one of the most vital trades of the final 10-15 years — although he didn’t pitch in any respect this season as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgical procedure. Verlander signed a two-year extension value $66 million two years in the past and made only one begin through the lifetime of the contract.  

Free agent signings

Usually talking, free company is the least environment friendly solution to purchase expertise by way of value vs. manufacturing. The Astros don’t give out vital free agent contracts all that always — they’ve signed solely three gamers (4 contracts) to free agent offers value at the least $10 million since 2017 — and fact be advised, their free agent monitor file is a bit spotty. There have been some misses.

Probably the most notable free agent signing on Houston’s roster is Michael Brantley. He first joined the group on a two-year, $32 million deal in Dec. 2018, then returned to the membership on an equivalent two-year, $32 million deal in Jan. 2021. Right here is the entire checklist of gamers to qualify for the batting title and hit .300 yearly since 2018: Michael Brantley. That is it. It has been cash very nicely spent.

Proper-handers Jake Odorizzi (two years, $20.25 million) and Ryne Stanek (one yr, $1.1 million) joined the Astros final offseason and have been identified portions to GM James Click on, who was in Tampa’s entrance workplace when these two performed for the Rays. Stanek has been a stable high-leverage possibility all season. Odorizzi has been up and down although, and is not locked right into a postseason roster spot.

Catcher Jason Castro (two years, $7 million) rejoined the Astros final winter, 13 years after Houston made him the No. 10 decide within the 2008 draft, and he is a stable backup to Maldonado. Further outfielder Jose Siri is a former prime prospect who bounced round a bit and signed a minor league contract with the Astros final December. He made his MLB debut in September.

Within the free agent dud division, the Astros gave righty Pedro Báez two years and $12.5 million over the winter, and he rewarded them with 4 1/3 innings round accidents in 2021. If you are going to miss on a free agent, lacking on a center reliever making center reliever cash is not a foul place to overlook. That is not going to cripple the Astros financially or derail their roster planning.

The Astros sometimes spend their {dollars} on extensions for present gamers slightly than free agent contracts for brand spanking new gamers. Brantley is essentially the most notable exception and he has confirmed to be a cut price. In any other case Houston’s notable free agent additions are complementary items like Castro, Odorizzi, and Stanek. Vital items to be a championship group however not high-priced. 

Worldwide free company

There are two methods to amass novice expertise: the draft and worldwide free company. The Astros scout Latin America very nicely, a lot in order that three-fourths of their postseason rotation joined the group as worldwide novice free brokers:

All three have been decrease profile signings who acquired small signing bonuses. Garcia signed at age 20 for $20,000 and Valdez signed at age 21 for $10,000. Urquidy signed proper earlier than his twentieth birthday and his bonus has not been reportedly publicly, which normally signifies it is rather small. Maybe $10,000 or much less. Three postseason starters for such a minimal funding is a large success.

Most amateurs who signal as intentional free brokers signal at age 16 or 17. Gamers who signal at 20 or 21 are comparatively historical on this market. All one of the best gamers are scooped up lengthy earlier than then. Garcia, Urquidy, and Valdez all signed near or after their twentieth birthday, nonetheless. These three are franchise-altering participant growth success tales, actually.

After all, Houston’s most notable worldwide free agent signing is Jose Altuve, who the Astros initially turned away from a tryout camp in Venezuela as a result of he was too quick. He got here again for a second tryout and landed himself a $15,000 bonus. Altuve is now a coronary heart and soul participant for the Astros and represents one other huge scouting and growth success story.

Yuli Gurriel was an unconventional worldwide free agent. He was one of the best participant in Cuba for greater than a decade — Gurriel hit .500/.589/.874 with 38 strikeouts and three walks in 49 video games his remaining season in Cuba — earlier than defecting at age 31 in Feb. 2016. He was a veteran free agent greater than an novice free agent. The Astros initially signed him to a five-year, $47.5 million contract.

Common season starter turned postseason ace reliever Cristian Javier was one other small bonus worldwide signing. He acquired a $10,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in March 2015. Altuve, Garcia, Javier, and Valdez value the Astros a mixed $55,000 in signing bonuses, and people 4 gamers contributed 10.9 WAR in 2021. Unbelievable.

There isn’t any magic formulation in baseball. The one fixed all through historical past is it’s a must to be good at every thing. Which means hitting, pitching, and protection on the sphere. By way of constructing the roster, meaning utilizing each out there avenue. The Astros have accomplished nicely on the prime of the draft and particularly in worldwide free company, and so they’ve augmented their homegrown core with shrewd trades and free agent signings. Arguably no group has accomplished it higher over the past half-decade. | World Sequence 2021: How the Astros constructed their AL champion roster by way of trades, free company and the draft


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