The Houston Astros are getting thinner and thinner on familiar names, trading third baseman Chris Johnson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of prospects.
In exchange for the hot-hitting Johnson, Houston gets two Double-A outfielders in Brian Borchering and Marc Krauss. Borchering was recently moved to the outfield by the Diamondbacks, but was listed as an infielder by the Astros and may be moving back to third base.
Johnson, 27, is hitting .279 in 92 games this season with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. In the past nine games, though, he’s hit .429/.474/.800 with two homers, five doubles, a triple, five runs scored and six RBIs.
"It's strange to say, because it seems like everyone is getting traded over here, but I was surprised," Johnson said. "When they called me out of the cage, I was in shock."
In the past 10 days, Houston has made four trades. Going back to the first of July, they’ve made five, trading away seven players and getting 17 in return. Most of the prospects are at least a year away from making their major league debuts, but Houston has added nice depth to a fairly barren farm system with all the movement.
It still takes an emotional toll on players, especially ones like Johnson, who have only one organization.
"It was pretty emotional in the room when I got called in," Johnson said. "I knew when they called me out of the cage that something had happened. We all knew that there were 26 guys here today, so there had to be a roster move. This is tough, this is all I've known since 2006 when I was drafted. I've called this place home, I moved here. It's tough, but that's the way the game is."
Houston needed to make a roster move before the game after claiming Steve Pearce off waivers from Baltimore, giving Houston 26 players on the active 25-man roster. The move comes a day after Houston sent a pair of relievers outright to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for reliever Chuckie Fick and called up starting pitcher Armando Galarraga.
The Astros were 32-45 on June 29 when the first Carlos Lee trade rumors broke regarding the ultimately failed deal with the Dodgers. Since that time, Houston has gone 2-23, including the current 12-game losing streak.
The offense in particular has struggled, scoring just 2.8 runs per game in July. As a team, Houston has hit .222/.290/.335 this month with 15 home runs and 68 runs scored. Only Carlos Lee and Carlos Corporan had higher batting averages than Johnson’s this month.
Borchering, 21, was drafted in the first round in 2009 by the Diamondbacks out of high school. He was rated as the best power hitting prospect in Arizona’s system by Baseball America this year, and was the top-rated high school power bat in the 2009 draft according to the same publication.
This season, Borchering has split time between High A Visalia and Double-A Mobile. He’s hit a combined .247/.310/.469 this season between the two levels, with a combined 20 home runs, 23 doubles and 68 RBIs. In four minor league seasons, he’s hit 61 total home runs and has topped 20 in each of the past two years.