Finally, we can breathe. The trade deadline has passed and moves to improve one’s team are complete. The Yankees bolstered their roster, the Reds cleaned house, and AJ Preller and the Padres completed one of the biggest deals in MLB history. However, the Astros were no bystanders in all the trade deadline fun. They acquired Trey Mancini, Christian Vazquez, and Will Smith in a series of moves on Monday.
Time will tell, but for fans, the questions remain the same. Did they do enough? How will the acquisitions fit in? Is the team good enough to win a World Series?
Trey Mancini: 1B, DH, OF
Mancini was the biggest get for the Astros, and while he hasn’t been able to match his 2019 numbers, the 30-year-old slugger would offer a significant upgrade at first base from Yuli Gurriel. The arrival of Mancini will cut into Gurriel’s playing time, but given the uncertainty of Michael Brantley’s injury, Mancini will spend the early part of his Astros tenure in left field or at DH.
There is a case to be made that no other home run hitter has been as unlucky as Mancini. With the left field wall at Camden Yards being pushed back before the 2022 season, Mancini has seen his home run numbers fall off. His expected home runs at Minute Maid Park sit at 21, which is more than double his actual total of 10 and the third highest of any ballpark in the league. The differential between his HR and xHR is -6.2, which is the highest negative differential in the league and two more than any other hitter.
Power plays in the postseason and the Astros are hoping the Crawford Boxes can help wake up the home run sleeping giant.
Christian Vazquez: C
The triple slash line for Astro catchers in 2022 is .160/.229./.297 and their WRC+ is a lowly 51. Perhaps as no surprise, their slugging percentage ranks near the bottom of baseball (27th). Vazquez would inject a much-needed bat into the catcher rotation, but Martin Maldonado is not going anywhere and will continue to serve as the team’s primary catcher.
Maldonado already has a great rapport with the entire pitching staff and is coming off a month in which he slugged over .500 and had a WRC+ of 142. Despite the improved level of play from Maldy, the 35-year-old Vazquez has caught the third most innings of any catcher this season. Vazquez is also an impressive defensive presence himself ranking second amongst catchers in defensive runs saved with 6.
Offensively, Vazquez is a tough out, ranking in the top 80th percentile in K% (16%) and Whiff Rate (17.1). This is noteworthy because Astros catchers have the highest K% (34.8) in the league. Another interesting offensive statistic is that in high leverage situations, Vazquez has a WRC+ of 149, and his ability to avoid strikeouts assures action in a pinch-hitting situation. Vazquez down the stretch of the regular season should ease Maldonado’s load and serve as a key bench bat in the postseason.
Will Smith: RP
It might take Astros fans a couple of months to forgive Smith for his dominant performance against their team in the World Series, but winning heals all wounds, and Smith was brought in to help the Astros be on the winning side of this year’s fall classic.
Smith has had a rough 2022 following his excellent postseason run, largely due to his inability to throw strikes. His BB% has skyrocketed to the worst mark of his career, yet the chase rate remains elite ranking in the 95th percentile.
Despite having a down season by his standards, Smith has been excellent in high leverage situations. In those moments his K% rises six percent to 30.4%, and the walk rate settles back down to 8.7%, helping him to a 2.82 FIP. Smith in the postseason will see several high-leverage situations as he is currently the only left-handed reliever.
James Click did not mince words when he said the Astros would be aggressive. They acquired three players who will not only help down the stretch run of the regular season but in the postseason as well. Players come and go, but the goal remains the same, and these three should increase those World Series chances.
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