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Astros-Blue Jays pull off 10-player deal

7/20/2012

At first glance, fantasy owners probably aren't too interested in the 10-player trade announced Friday between the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. After all, of those 10 players, seven received by the worst team in baseball (the Astros), only half are big leaguers, and for a few of them that term is used loosely. In fact, none of the players in this trade were making a positive impact for fantasy owners.

However, I see two potentially positive results from this trade, and no, one of them isn't that your struggling National League-only fantasy squad is mercifully free of lefty J.A. Happ. For one, Francisco Cordero could find himself getting saves again, and on the Blue Jays' side the trade opened up a roster spot for a minor leaguer we've been discussing for years.

Outfielder Travis Snider is back in the majors yet again after destroying Triple-A pitching. Will he finally hit in the big leagues this time? That could be problematic, but Snider is at least back after producing a 1.021 OPS over 56 games for Las Vegas. Yes, most everyone hits there, but Snider is a lefty-hitting outfielder with pop and has shown bits of plate discipline and speed as well. It would behoove the Jays to either play the guy regularly or deal him.

Snider has 799 major league at-bats over parts of four seasons despite being only 24 years old, and while he has spent a few weeks in the team's leadoff spot he's more of a No. 5 or 6 hitter, a potential 25-homer guy. It's foolish to expect that in 2012, of course, but Snider should hit. In an American League-only format, Snider should be owned right away. I wouldn't bother with him in 10- or 12-team mixed leagues just yet, but I also wouldn't wait if the Jays commit to using him and he has a few decent games. Snider should play right field over the recently recalled Anthony Gose, for example.

As for Cordero, his 2012 statistics are irrelevant to me. A year ago, he saved 37 games for the Cincinnati Reds, and while that number tells us little at this point the 2.45 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and lower walk rate (compared to previous seasons) spoke volumes. Cordero's strikeout rate was abysmal for a reliever, but he didn't appear ready for retirement, either. If the Astros can find a home for current closer Brett Myers -- they'll likely have to pick up some of the cost -- or he gets moved to the rotation (which is unlikely), Cordero is the obvious fill-in to close. The Astros have little else in the bullpen. Cordero is 37 and second only to Mariano Rivera among active pitchers in saves.

Of course, the Astros were nearly no-hit by Edinson Volquez on Thursday and have won a sad 12 of their past 48 games, so save opportunities haven't exactly been plentiful. That said, it's not a reach to think Cordero could save 10 games the final two months. And the NL Central is not even close to the AL East, where Cordero struggled this season. One would think playoff contenders at least have interest in Myers, who has 19 saves and respectable numbers if you take out two nasty June outings (11 runs, six earned; 12 hits, while recording only four outs).

And that's about all that's interesting about the deal fantasy-wise. Houston fared reasonably well in this deal, getting a few interesting prospects back, including 19-year-old right-hander Joe Musgrove, who is years away from relevance. Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski is 23 and has shown some promise, as has lefty David Rollins, 22. Perhaps 21-year-old catcher Carlos Perez develops as a hitter. Losing Happ and his 4.84 ERA over three seasons with the Astros is no big deal. The Blue Jays have been desperate for rotation help, though certainly one could argue nothing has changed in that respect.

The Astros also get veteran outfielder Ben Francisco back, and while I'm not a fan it should be noted he hit 10 home runs and stole 13 bases in a mere 89 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2009. He has done little since, but he wasn't a starter for long periods of time, either. The Astros might use him regularly, and he's worth a buck in an NL-only format. Heck, he might even end up hitting in a run-producing spot. After all, little-known Scott Moore has been batting third recently.

The Blue Jays received Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter for their bullpen, but Casey Janssen is entrenched as the team's closer now that Sergio Santos is done for the season. However, if Janssen were to get hurt, I'd call Lyon and lefty Darren Oliver co-next in line.