Astros Ship Happ, Lyon To Blue Jays, Get Five Prospects

The Deal
The Astros continued their recent trend of dealing veterans, whether young or old, with the organization’s latest transaction, a 10-player trade with the Blue Jays that brought back two vets from Toronto as well as four low-level prospects and a player to be named. Houston traded righthanded reliever Brandon Lyon, lefty starter J.A. Happ and sophomore reliever David Carpenter to the Blue Jays for righty reliever Francisco Cordero, reserve outfielder Ben Francisco and a quartet of prospects, righthanders Asher Wojciechowski and Joe Musgrove, lefty David Rollins and catcher Carlos Perez. Among the prospects, only Wojciechowski has experience above the low Class A level.

UPDATE: The Blue Jays traded 20-year-old Rookie-ball righthander Kevin Comer to the Astros on Aug. 16, completing the transaction.

Houston’s motivation to make this trade follows recent precedent. Since taking the helm, first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow has dealt veterans Jason Bourgeois, Carlos Lee, Mark Melancon, Humberto Quintero and now Carpenter, Happ and Lyon in four separate trades that have yielded 12 players (with the prospect of a player to be named on the way from Toronto). The Astros have ample time to develop their new acquisitions because only Perez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, must be added to the 40-man roster this November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.

The Blue Jays have scored more runs than all but three American League outfits this season, but a 4.49 team ERA leaves them 45-47 and 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card position. (AL East rivals Boston and Tampa Bay each sit one game out.) Plugging Lyon and Carpenter into late-inning bullpen roles—where Toronto lost closer Sergio Santos for the season—and Happ into the rotation—where the Blue Jays have recently turned to Aaron Laffey and Carlos Villanueva following injuries to Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow—will help prevent runs, while also returning a few pitchers to roles that better suit their skills.

Neither of the veterans dealt by Toronto (Cordero and Francisco) will be missed, but the Jays incurred a cost in both dollars and talent in the transaction—though they did gain an extra year of cost control by swapping Francisco for Happ. The Blue Jays assumed nearly $1 million in big league salary in the deal, while one of the young players dealt away might blossom into a useful big league contributor in time, though none of the four ranked among Toronto’s top tier of prospects.

 
Astros Acquire
Asher Wojciechowski, rhp
Age: 23. Born: Dec 21, 1988 in Hardeeville, S.C.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 235.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: The Citadel.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in supplemental first round (41st overall) of 2010 draft; signed June 16, 2010.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Dunedin (FSL) HiA 7 3 3.57 18 18 0 93 91 40 37 3 22 76 1.22

The 41st pick in the 2010 draft, Wojciechowski attracted scouts with his size and power arm. He effortlessly sat 92-94 mph and complemented his fastball with a nasty slider that topped out at 85. However, in his first full season, his velocity regressed to 89-93 mph and his slider flattened out too often. The Blue Jays attributed the step back to the rigors of professional baseball, and sent Wojciechowski back to high Class A Dunedin in 2012. The development of a changeup is key for his chances of becoming a starter. Otherwise he profiles as a late-innings reliever because his stuff could play up in short stints.

 
Carlos Perez, c
Age: 21. Born: Oct 27, 1990 in Valencia, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Blue Jays, Jan. 2, 2008.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Lansing (MWL) LoA .271 71 273 48 74 22 5 5 40 35 38 3 .354 .443

Perez earned his team’s MVP distinction in each of his first three seasons, but he hit a bump in 2011 when he played in his first full-season league with low Class A Lansing. The grind took a toll on him and he batted .256/.320/.355 as a 20-year-old. Perez returned to Lansing for 2012 and put up an .804 OPS through 71 games. He projects to be at least an average defender because he has solid catch-and-throw skills. He has quick feet that get him in a good throwing position, a quick release and solid arm strength. Perez is a below-average runner but has good instincts on the bases. The Blue Jays valued his plate discipline, and this season he had nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (38). He helps an Astros organization with a dearth of catching prospects.

 
Joe Musgrove, rhp
Age: 19. Born: Dec 4, 1992 in El Cajon, Calif.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Grossmont HS, El Cajon, Calif.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in supplemental first round (46th overall) of 2011 draft; signed June 7, 2011.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Bluefield (APP) R 0 0 1.13 2 1 0 8 5 1 1 0 0 9 0.63

Musgrove stood out at a showcase game early in the spring of his draft year and continued to improve his stock during the season. He went 47th overall to the Blue Jays and signed for $500,000. He made nine appearances (seven starts) in 2011 between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues and went 1-1, 4.01 with 18 strikeouts and five walks in 25 innings. Musgrove has a big, physical frame at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. His fastball can sit in the low 90s with heavy sink, and he has touched 98 mph in the past. Musgrove threw two breaking balls in high school, but the Blue Jays wanted him to focus on sharpening his slider. He returned to the Appy League this season and paired with lefthander Daniel Norris as part of a piggyback system, but he made just two starts and had not pitched since June 24. (See the bottom of this July 10 piece for a recent update.)

 
David Rollins, lhp
Age: 22. Born: Dec 21, 1989 in Deberry, Texas.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195.
Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: San Jacinto (Texas) JC.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in 24th round of 2011 draft; signed June 12, 2011.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Lansing (MWL) LoA 6 1 2.78 18 18 0 78 64 29 24 2 36 75 1.28

A 24th-round selection, Rollins has a good three-pitch mix, but he needs to work on his command. He pitches with an average fastball that has some sink. He also works with a slider with bite and a good changeup.

 
Kevin Comer, rhp
Age: 19. Born: Aug 1, 1992 in Shamong, N.J.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Seneca HS, Tabernacle, N.J.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in supplemental first round (57th overall) of 2011 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2011.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Bluefield (APP) R 3 3 3.95 10 7 0 43 43 25 19 4 8 29 1.18

Taken nine picks after Musgrove in the 2011 draft, Comer also heads from the Rookie-level Bluefield rotation to the Astros system. (Incidentally, Toronto now has traded away the top two pitchers they signed out of last year’s draft.) A New Jersey prep product, Comer has size and picturesque mechanics on his side, though his fastball velocity and secondary stuff will need to develop further to profile as a starter. He sits in the high 80s now and snaps off the occasional sharp, mid-70s breaking ball. He’s got time on his side, and prior to the trade the Blue Jays had emphasized changeup usage.

 
Francisco Cordero, rhp
Age: 37. Throws: R. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $4.5 million this season.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Toronto (AL) 2012 3 5 5.77 41 0 2 34 48 24 22 7 14 26 1.82
3-Year Totals 14 13 3.67 184 0 79 177 165 76 72 18 72 127 1.34
 
Ben Francisco, of
Age: 30. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $1.5375 million this season, then arbitration-eligible for 2013.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) Year AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Toronto (MAJ) 2012 .240 27 50 5 12 5 1 0 2 4 10 0 .296 .380
3-Year Totals .253 215 479 53 121 28 2 12 64 51 87 12 .331 .395
 
Blue Jays Acquire
David Carpenter, rhp
Age: 26. Born: Jul 15, 1985 in Morgantown, W.Va.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215.
Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: West Virginia.
Career Transactions: Selected by Cardinals in 12th round of 2006 draft; signed June 13, 2006 … Traded by Cardinals to Astros for 3B Pedro Feliz and cash, Aug. 19, 2010.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Houston (NL) MLB 0 2 6.07 30 0 0 30 43 21 20 4 14 27 1.90
Okla. City (PCL) AAA 1 0 2.08 7 0 3 9 7 2 2 1 0 6 0.78

The Cardinals selected Carpenter as a catcher in the 12th round of the 2006 draft, but he batted just .208/.266/.289 in three seasons, at which point St. Louis converted him to the mound. The move paid off when Carpenter advanced to high Class A as a closer in 2010, then again when he served as the trade chip that brought Pedro Feliz to the Cardinals that August. Carpenter made his big league debut with Houston less than a year later, striking out 29 in 27 2/3 innings and then making the club out of 2012 spring training. He worked around too many baserunners this season (1.90 WHIP) but continued to miss bats with 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. In two Triple-A stints this season, Carpenter has struck out six and allowed seven baserunners in 8 2/3 innings, and his Pitch f/x data (as conveyed by FanGraphs) in the big leagues indicates that he’s throwing his fastball (94.5 mph) and slider (85.2) harder this season, even if he’s not locating them as precisely. He has more upside than most 26-year-old sophomore relievers, given his position player past and his present arm strength.

 
Brandon Lyon, rhp
Age: 32. Throws: R. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $5.5 million this season.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Houston (NL) 2012 0 2 3.25 37 0 0 36 37 13 13 3 11 35 1.33
3-Year Totals 9 11 4.03 131 0 24 127 132 58 57 9 47 95 1.41
 
J.A. Happ, lhp
Age: 29. Throws: L. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $2.35 million this season, then arbitration-eligible for 2013-14.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) Year W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Houston (NL) 2012 7 9 4.83 18 18 0 104 112 58 56 17 39 98 1.45
3-Year Totals 19 28 4.71 62 62 0 348 342 198 182 46 169 302 1.47

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