The Astros have acquired right-hander Austin Pruitt from the Rays in exchange for outfielder Cal Stevenson and righty Peyton Battenfield, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Robert Murray first reported Stevenson was headed to the Rays. This is the second trade of Thursday night for the Rays, who previously swung a major deal with the Cardinals.
As the only player with major league experience in this trade, Pruitt’s the headliner. He’s also a Texas native, making this deal a homecoming of sorts. The 30-year-old saw action with the Rays in each season from 2017-19, though preventing runs was difficult for him. Pruitt posted a 4.87 ERA (with a much better 4.17 FIP) and recorded 6.63 K/9, 2.25 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent groundball rate over 199 2/3 innings. However, he ranked near the top of the majors in spin rate last year, and that’s something the Astros are known to greatly value.
Most of Pruitt’s major league work has come as a reliever so far, but the ninth-round pick from 2013 was once a full-time starter in the minors. And Pruitt could return to a rotation in the majors this year, as Astros president of baseball operations/general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters (including McTaggart) that they intend “to give him a chance” to earn a rotation spot entering 2020. Unlike in the previous couple seasons, the Astros’ rotation has some question marks. Sure, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are great, but Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley are gone, and Lance McCullers Jr. is returning from Tommy John surgery. Brad Peacock and the relatively unproven Jose Urquidy could be the front-runners for the four and five positions in Houston’s starting staff.
The 23-year-old Stevenson didn’t last long with the Astros, who acquired him from the Blue Jays last July in a trade centering on right-hander Aaron Sanchez. Stevenson had a productive year at the High-A level between the two teams, as he slashed .288/.388/.384 with five home runs across 490 plate appearances.
A 10th-round pick of the Jays in 2018, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen ranked Stevenson as the Astros’ 39th-best prospect earlier this week, citing his “great contact and on base skills.” Stevenson has a chance to amount to a fourth outfielder, according to McDaniel and Longenhagen.
Battenfield, 22, was a ninth-round draft selection last summer. He amassed 39 1/3 innings with the Astros’ low-A affiliate in 2019 and fared quite well, putting up a 1.60 ERA/2.21 FIP with 10.53 K/9 against 3.43 BB/9.