On July 30th, the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros completed a trade that sent Roberto Osuna to the defending World Series champions for Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez.
It was a deal that caught many experts off-guard. For others, Osuna’s exit from Toronto was apparent the day he was arrested and subsequently suspended 75 games by Major League Baseball for violating the domestic violence policy.
Although the 23-year-old was still serving his suspension at the time of the trade, from an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like a trade that materialized fairly quickly.
It turns out the Houston Astros had laid the groundwork for that trade many years prior. After Osuna’s off-field transgressions, the Blue Jays were finally willing to sell their young closer.
The Astros eventually got their man, even if it was at a reduced price. According to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Jeff Luhnow, general manager of the Astros, had Osuna on his radar dating back several years.
“Luhnow, who grew up in Mexico City, had wanted (Osuna) for years, engaging unsuccessfully with the former Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos and his successor, Ross Atkins.”
In spite of a shaky bullpen, the Astros won the World Series last year. They were reportedly in the market for Zach Britton, but a trade never materialized. Houston’s reported interest in Osuna makes perfect sense, as their closer Ken Giles owned an 11.74 ERA in seven playoff games in 2017.
The only reliever the Astros acquired at the trade deadline last year was Francisco Liriano. He pitched as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the Astros acquired Liriano with the intention of using him solely as a left-handed reliever.
On paper, a closer the calibre of Osuna seemed like a luxury the Blue Jays could afford to do without. The former Blue Jays closer excelled while the team itself sputtered and finished with a 76-86 record in 2017.
Luhnow did his due diligence last year and checked in with the Blue Jays last year to see if they’d be willing to part with their closer. He says the ask from the Blue Jays was astronomical, as one would expect.
“I tried to trade for (Osuna) when Alex was GM there a bunch of times, in every deal that we did with them, but he wouldn’t do it.
And then last year at the deadline, I had a long conversation with Ross. He said he would listen, we talked, and their ask was extraordinarily high, as it should have been. They still had a lot of years of control, and he was the most accomplished young closer in the game.”
Had the Blue Jays traded Osuna last summer, they would’ve received much more in return than the package they received from the Astros this summer. After what transpired leading up to Osuna’s arrest on May 8th earlier this year, what the Blue Jays ultimately got back from the Astros was irrelevant.
The best thing the Blue Jays could’ve done was to remove Osuna from their roster, which they did. In exchange, the Blue Jays received an equally talented closer in the form of Giles.
He successfully converted all 26 save attempts this past season. Despite some mid-season struggles with the Astros, Giles turned his season around with the Blue Jays. After a rocky five-run outing on August 7th, Giles pitched to a 1.59 ERA during his final 16 games of the season.
Giles’ most important statistic of the season? He had zero arrests. He was not suspended 75 games. He did not commit a heinous crime.
Osuna finished the season with the Astros, who closed out the regular season with a 103-59 record; the most in franchise history. The Astros lost their American Championship League series 4-1 to the Boston Red Sox. Osuna gave up five runs – the most of his career in a single game – in Game 3 of the series.