As the start of Sunday afternoon's finale against the Pirates drew closer, it became clear the Astros were trying to complete yet another trade.
The Astros then pulled off their fifth trade of the month, sending third baseman Chris Johnson to the D-backs for Minor League infielder Bobby Borchering and outfielder Marc Krauss. Johnson joins Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez in being dealt in July.
Prospects acquired by Astros
- Bobby Borchering, OF: The 11th-ranked prospect on the D-backs' Top 20 at the time of the trade, Borchering put up big power numbers in the hitter-friendly California League in 2011 and the first half of 2012. The 2009 first-round pick has struggled mightily since his bump up to Double-A Mobile, though, hitting .130 (10-for-77) with two extra-base hits (both homers) in 21 games. He has the ability to hit like he did at Visalia as he continues to move up, especially if he can improve his plate discipline. The D-backs moved him to the outfield this year from his corner infield positions.
- Marc Krauss, OF: Krauss was No. 20 on the D-backs' Top 20. He was at Double-A Mobile, repeating the level after meeting his match there last year. While his offensive numbers slipped in 2011, Kraus did find room for a few improvements -- drawing walks more frequently and taking extra bases on 45 percent of his hits. Those trends have continued in 2012, as the 2009 second-round pick has a robust .416 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging mark. His bat is clearly what will make or break him, and he's proving he can handle higher-level pitching this season.
- Top 20 Prospects: D-backs | Astros
- -- Jonathan Mayo
"We are continuing to accumulate players who are better than the players we have in our system," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "More importantly, players that have a chance to play and help us out at the big league level and hopefully become impact players."
Johnson, drafted by the Astros in 2006, was hitting .279 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 92 games this season. He said he was surprised to be dealt.
"It was tough," he said. "I've worked my way up with a lot of these guys in here. Going through the things that we've gone through the past two seasons is something that brings us really close together. I apologized to the guys that I wasn't here to stick this thing out the rest of the way. I wish them the best."
Luhnow has been extremely active this month by shipping off players in exchange for prospects. The Astros have acquired 13 prospects and two players to be named in their five trades as they continue to stockpile prospects to further strengthen the farm system.
The turnover has been so dramatic that the only player who was in the Astros' Opening Day lineup in 2011 who remains on the roster is Brett Wallace, and that's only because he was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City following Sunday's game. Luhnow said he wasn't shopping Johnson, but the interest kept rising.
"C.J. was an important part of this team, but we felt like we had an opportunity to do what we've been doing all year, which is stockpiling our young talent," Luhnow said. "We've acquired a lot of arms over the course of the last month, and this was an opportunity to acquire two -- what we believe are going to be -- impact bats."
Unlike most of the players who were traded before him -- Lee, Lyon, Myers and Rodriguez -- Johnson is under 30 and recently represented the next wave of young talent coming through the system. Still, Luhnow wasn't afraid to deal his starting third baseman to get even younger.
"This is all I've known since 2006, when I was drafted," Johnson said. "I called this place home. I moved here. It's definitely tough, but that's the way the game goes. I'm excited to move on to the Arizona Diamondbacks."
Johnson is moving from a team with the worst record in the Major Leagues to one that started Sunday within 4 1/2 games of the lead in the National League West and within 5 1/2 of the second NL Wild Card berth.
"I'm excited to go over there," he said. "They have a good ballclub. I'm going to try to do my best to go about my business the exact same way I have here. I'm assuming that's why they traded for me and that's what they want me to do. They have a really good ballclub over there. I'm just going to try to go over there and do what I can to help them."
Borchering, 21, was Arizona's first pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and has split this season between Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, hitting .247 with 23 doubles and 20 home runs. Coincidentally, Borchering and Johnson both attended Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla.
"A couple years ago, I would go down and work out at the high school, work out with him," Johnson said of Borchering. "Yeah, I'll shoot him a text and kind of see what he's up to."
Borchering will report to Double-A Corpus Christi and play third base.
"We're sending [special assistant] Matt Galante down there and are going to work with him," Luhnow said. "It's where we believe he has the most upside, but he can play first base and left field and we're going to need a DH. What he brings to the party is a power upside we don't have much of in the organization, except for [Telvin] Nash."
Krauss, 24, has batted .283 with a .925 OPS and 15 home runs at Mobile and will play left field in Corpus Christi, though Luhnow said he'll likely end the year in Triple-A.
"Based on the numbers, he's proven he's ready to go and take that next stop and go to Triple-A, and we'll figure out a way to do that before the end of the year," Luhnow said.