It is understandable why the Houston Astros traded Minor League outfielder Jake Goebbert for relief pitcher Travis Blackley, but it may have made more sense to wait for a more suitable player to handle the position.
The Astros acquired Blackley from the Oakland Athletics because they needed a left-hander in the bullpen who can handle the long relief role. The 30-year-old has been used mostly as a starting pitcher in his three years in the big leagues, but Houston believes he will have plenty of success for them as a reliever.
“He’s a left-handed long man, which is something we’ve been trying to figure out how to work into our roster,” Astros manager Jeff Luhnow said, according to Astros.com “He had a lot of success as a starter and we believe that will translate well into our bullpen. We did have our scouts see him this spring and there was a long list of players that became available as the season started when everybody cut down to 25 [players]. He was at the top of our list, and we made a few phone calls and got it done.”
I am not exactly sure what the scouts for Houston saw in Blackley in Spring Training, but at no point did he show signs of success. He posted a 1-1 record with a 14.21 earned run average, 12 strikeouts and a .450 opponent batting average in 12 2/3 innings. If anything, I guess the fact that he struck out at least one batter per one inning is good, but his other dismal statistics outweigh that.
It is also not as if Blackley has performed at a high level in his short time in the majors. The native of Australia has a 6-4 record with a 5.37 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 36 career appearances (23 starts).
If Blackley pans out then it was obviously a great move to trade for him. However, based on the numbers I have to say it is a very questionable move. The Astros gave up a decent player in Goebbert for Blackley, which is something that could certainly come back to bite the organization down the road. Goebbert is a career .285 hitter with 31 home runs, 237 RBI, 176 walks and 262 strikeouts in 1,588 at-bats over a four-year span.
Ironically, Blackley’s first appearance with Houston could very likely come against Oakland this weekend.