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Culture / Sporting Life

Astros Completely School Yankees With Zack Greinke Trade Deadline Steal, Create an MLB Dream Team

Jeff Luhnow Outmaneuvers Brian Cashman With Jim Crane Pushing (and Spending Big) for More

BY // 07.31.19

If George Steinbrenner was still above ground, Brian Cashman probably would be looking for a new job right about now.

For Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow completely outmaneuvered his much more hyped New York Yankees counterpart when it counted most — again. The Astros somehow emerge from baseball’s trade deadline with Zack Greinke, an established ace, while the Yankees grab… a whole lot of nothing.

It’s a stunning turn of events, one that leaves the Astros as the clear World Series favorite. Luhnow pulls off another last-minute shocker, getting former Cy Young winner Greinke without giving up Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley.

Yes, Luhnow grabs Greinke without handing over either of his two top prospects. That’s like getting to date Scarlett Johansson while still being married to your wife. Even Luhnow professed to be a little dumbfounded by the turn.

” ‘I can’t believe we just added Zack Greinke to this rotation and this team,’ ” Luhnow says when asked to describe his reaction when the deal finalized. “… When it all came together we just looked at each other in the room and said, ‘Is this really happening?’ ”

It is — and it’s the stuff of Houston dreams and pinstriped nightmares.

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For much of this season, the Yankees loomed as a literal power in the American League. New York’s powerful lineup, injuries no matter, made the Steinbrenner family’s squad the first half pacesetter.

Now, the Astros can throw Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Greinke at the Yankees, potentially back-to-back-t0-back, in an October playoff series. What looked close is now Clear Advantage, Houston.

Give Luhnow and Astros owner Jim Crane major credit for going for it all — again. Just like in 2017 when Luhnow traded for Justin Verlander even later in the summer calendar under Major League Baseball’s old rules, the Astros have added a major difference maker with championship swinging potential.

Greinke is not quite as dominant at age 35 as Verlander is at age 36. But he’s not that far off the standards set by the Tom Brady of baseball. Greinke will arrive in Houston with a 10-4 record, a 2.90 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP  (walks plus hits per innings pitched) this season. Coincidently, he comes off striking out seven Yankees and giving up only two hits in a start in New York on Wednesday.

Call it an early glimpse of dread for the Bronx Bombers.

One of the most cerebral players in the game — a champion for mental health who managed his own anxiety issues to become one of the most dominant pitchers in the game — Greinke will immediately make the Astros clubhouse an even more interesting place. It’s easy to imagine Verlander, Greinke and Cole all getting a kick out of bouncing ideas off one another and holding long impromptu discussions on pitching concepts.

This is the type of high impact trade that will energize the entire team. Just like Cashman’s hesitation — and lack of a significant move — could deflate the Yankees’ young clubhouse.

Greinke is not quite as dominant at age 35 as Verlander is at age 36. But he’s not that far off the standards set by the Tom Brady of baseball.

These Astros have long looked like an All-Star team, with an embarrassment of riches running through their lineup. Now, after Greinke… they are like baseball’s version of an NBA super team.

“You just don’t know when you’re going to assemble a group this talented again,” Luhnow says at Minute Maid Park’s Union Station, not far from the offices where he pulled this all off. “So you have to take advantage of it.”

If Houston sports fans don’t realize it already, they should treasure every chance to watch this Astros’ Dream Team, savor every big moment. Runs like this do not come around very often. This is the best time in history to be a Houston Astros fan.

Even Yankees fans are rightfully envious.

Greinke’s Price is Right

Giving up the third (first baseman Seth Beer), fourth (pitcher JB Bukauskas), fifth (pitcher Corbin Martin) and 22nd-rated (infielder Josh Rojas) prospects in the Astros’ minor league system is a more than reasonable price for two and a half years of control of Greinke. This isn’t even an all win-move move on Luhnow’s part.

The Astros get Greinke under contract for the 2020 and 2021 seasons as well — perhaps no small footnote with Gerrit Cole’s free agency looming.

Welcome to the Houston Dream Team.

Cashman and the Yankees seem to be playing to be good enough for the long run. Luhnow, Crane and the Astros are going all in, grabbing the moment. Now.

What a wonderful new world of baseball this is.

In truth, this has been the reality for at least the last three seasons. But that does not make the confirmation — the Houston joy and the New York pain — any less thrilling.

Zack Greinke is suddenly a Houston Astro. Make way for The Baseball Dream Team.

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