The Hot Stove is so wild right now that even the Houston Astros are in the mix.
The Astros — losers of 111 games in 2013 and owners of the lowest payroll in baseball — were able to procure center fielder Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies for center field Brandon Barnes plus pitcher Jordan Lyles.
Fowler had been the Rockies starting center fielder since 2009, but is still just 27 years old. He fell out of favor in Colorado after a down year in 2013, in which he hit .263/.369/.407. He had his best year in 2012, hitting .300/.389/.474 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs. (Keep in mind, all these numbers are helped by playing at Coors Field.) Fowler had a WAR of 2.7 in 2012, according to Baseball Reference. That dropped to 2.0 in 2013.
The Astros need a lot more than two added wins, obviously, but fans can be happy that the club — which has been stingy with cash since owner Jim Crane took over — is bringing in a player that has something of a name. Fowler, Jose Altuve, Jason Castro and a pool of developing young players, that's the Astros.
Fowler hasn't been an All-Star, but he's now the biggest name on the team, and at not too high of a price. He's under contract for $7.35 million for 2014. He'll be eligible for arbitration in 2015 and a free agent in 2016. He's easily the team's highest paid player now. Altuve, who gets $1.25 million this season, is the only player making more than one million.
Barnes, also 27, played his first full season in 2013. He was serviceable in Houston, hitting .240/.289/.346 and making some highlight-worthy plays in the field. He did hit for the cycle. But more than anything, this is the Rockies making payroll room in an attempt to land a free agent. Dumping Fowler's salary gives them the chance to do that immediately. The Rockies have been linked to Justin Morneau, so perhaps some added cash helps get that deal done.
Neither Barnes nor Lyles — a 23-year-old who went 7-9 with a 5.59 ERA in 2013 — make too much money. They could develop into something better (Lyles has more potential than Barnes) or be used again as trait bait. That's already the case with Lyles, suggests Ken Rosenthal, who is reporting that teams are already interested.
Fowler, meanwhile, better start practicing covering center field in Houston's Minute Maid Park, which includes Tal's Hill. It and Barnes had some not-so-good run-ins in the past.
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