clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Dexter Fowler goes to Houston; fantasy value takes a dip

New, 5 comments

The Rockies outfielder is now an Astros outfielder, in a trade that doesn't make a lot of sense at a glance and continues not making sense when you look deeper.

Justin Edmonds

The biggest name changing teams on a crazy-busy Tuesday (so far? Tuesday isn't over (I started this around 8; by the time I finished, Jacoby Ellsbury was a Yankee. Dangit)) was outfielder Dexter Fowler, who went from the Colorado Rockies to the Houston Astros in a confusing deal. Fowler (and a PTBNL, which is the last time I'll mention him here; there's nothing to analyze) went to Houston for outfielder Brandon Barnes and starting pitcher Jordan Lyles.

The seeds for the trade were planted a week ago, when Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd was somewhat critical of Fowler on Denver-area radio, talking about how the 27-year-old needs to "get tougher," needs to be a "passionate competitor," needs to "love the game." I'm like 97 percent shocked he didn't use "grittier" in there. But after the comments, there were all sorts of Fowler rumors -- to Seattle? To Kansas City?

The deal that came to pass, though, doesn't make a lot of sense. Barnes was a 27-year-old rookie in 2013, and Lyles has a 5.35 career ERA. Fowler, meanwhile, played his fifth full season in 2013, and has a .368 career on-base percentage. He's a decent fielder, a middling baserunner, and has only surpassed a .270 batting average once, but still, at a glance, if Colorado couldn't get more than Barnes and Lyles for Fowler, it seems weird that they'd even bother.

But that's all looking-back analysis. Looking ahead, how will new surroundings affect the guys involved?

Fowler -- This does not bode well. Road-Fowler was pretty awful a year ago; Home-Fowler hit .311, while Road-Fowler only managed .214. Of Fowler's 40 career home runs, 27 have come in Coors Field. Moving to Houston's Minute Maid Park is better for him than a move to San Diego, San Francisco, or Pittsburgh might have been, of course, but we're all well-acquainted with Coors guys becoming non-Coors guys. On top of that, Fowler has only played 140 games once (143 in 2012), and only got into 119 in 2013. He's far from a paragon of health. Fowler-the-Rockie was a mid-round 2014 draft pick with some moderate upside; Fowler-the-Astro is a very late pick who would be your first post-draft drop.

Lyles -- Throughout his three-year career, Lyles has underperformed his peripherals; his 5.35 ERA comes with a 4.54 FIP and a 4.23 xFIP. He only strikes out 6.18 guys per nine innings, and his K:BB ratio is barely better than 2.0, with both rates even worse in 2013. He's 23, which you like, but has never had a truly good K or K:BB rate above A-ball. You didn't like him much in Houston; you hate him in Denver. If Lyles is owned in a fantasy league in 2014, it's something like a 30-team fantasy league with deep rosters.

Barnes -- Here's where I'm lost. Why did the Rockies even bother with Barnes? Did the Astros insist on sending him as well? He's a decent defensive player -- decent, not spectacular, decent -- who basically can't hit at all. He has a .282 career OBP in 179 games and 550 plate appearances. He strikes out almost 30 percent of the time; he has a 69 OPS+. For real baseball, he's a theoretically helpful piece. For fantasy -- even accounting for the helpful move to Coors Field -- he's meaningless.

Fowler gets a serious downgrade leaving Coors, while the players going the other direction can't even really sniff relevance. Even then, Fowler at a glance looks significantly more valuable. There's some question if the Rockies made the move to clear space for another acquisition, but even then, you'd think they could do better. It's a baffling trade no matter how you look at it, and the Astros have to feel like they've gotten a coup.