Were we worrying about the wrong thing?

A few days ago, Astros GM James Click went a different way in stating that the Astros might be pursuing starting pitching at the trade deadline.

Pitching Notes: Kimbrel, Cubs, Braves, Lorenzen, Gray, Astros, MadBum – MLB Trade Rumors

This is not really where the fans’ heads have been in the first half of the season. Early on, as Myles Straw was looking pretty hopeless at the plate, fans were thinking that the Astros needed to steady the outfield situation with an acquisition.

However, the current situation with the outfield does not point to that as an immediate area of need:

  • After 33 games, Straw’s slash was a pitiful .204 BA/ .296 OBP/ .546 OPS. But in the last 54 games, his slash has been a more than acceptable .304 BA/ .386 OBP/ .767 OPS with 30 runs scored and 20 RBIs. He won’t hit for power, but with this lineup, he doesn’t need to, and he has done an outstanding job of going the other way like he did on Friday night for a key 3 run double.
  • The part-time assistance of 4th OF Chas McCormick has also played into the outfield situation going from dire to acceptable as in only 140 ABs, he has 29 runs scored, 10 HRs (many of which have been critical) and 35 RBIs. His .250 BA/ .315 OBP/ .829 OPS slash has been exactly what the Astros needed after having very weak contributions off the bench the last few seasons.
  • It also hasn’t hurt that former Astros George Springer has struggled through an injury-riddled 2021 where he has only played 21 games and is currently slashing .184 BA/ .295 OBP/ .690 OPS with 5 HRs and 11 RBIs. George will likely hit a hot streak along the way, but the Astros have had the best offense in the AL without him to this point.

The next area of concern for the fans has been the bullpen. The strong rookie performances of Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, and Brooks Raley in 2020 covered the fact that the bullpen lacked a veteran presence behind Ryan Pressly. Early on in 2021, the Astros lost veteran free agent Pedro Baez before the season began, missed Josh James and Austin Pruitt due to injury, and saw Joe Smith, Paredes, and Taylor fall victim to injury. Scrubb, Smith and Paredes, along with Brooks Raley, all struggled early with or without injury. Ryne Stanek pitched well early out of the bullpen and then hit hard times due to control and home run problems.

While there are plenty of reasons for the Astros to bolster the bullpen and some trade gossip connecting them to relievers like Richard Rodriguez and Craig Kimbrel, there have been a few encouraging signs lately.

  • The most encouraging note would be the start of rehab for Baez, who has yet to pitch for the Astros. As a reminder, this guy was a very good, steady Eddie, late-inning option for the Dodgers for 7 seasons where his ERA ranged from 2.63 to 3.35. If he could slide into the 7th or 8th inning spots in the bullpen after rehab, that would be a huge help.
  • Austin Pruitt has been activated from the IL and is set to make his first appearance for the Astros. While his MLB career has been so-so to date, Click does know him from Tampa Bay, and he did show improving numbers year to year with his three seasons with the Rays. If he could come in and be a dependable innings eater out of the bullpen, that would be a positive.
  • Josh James has been pitching well in his current rehab, and while he has never shown the form that he had in a cameo in 2018, having a veteran strikeout option out of the bullpen could be a big weapon for the team.
  • Bryan Abreu has come back off the IL, and if they can see a little more of what he showed Friday night and a little less of some of his other appearances, he could be a key cog out of the bullpen.
  • Joe Smith, one of the best relievers on the team in 2019 before sitting out 2020 and struggling early in 2021, has come back from the IL and had two scoreless appearances in his last couple of shots. Having a solid veteran during a playoff race is always a bonus.
  • In his last three appearances since his call back, Andre Scrubb has 6 Ks and, very importantly, no walks in three innings of scoreless work. Scrubb and his big hook could be a nice option out of the bullpen for the Astros.
  • Over his last 12 games, Brooks Raley had a 2.70 ERA, a huge improvement over his 7.52 ERA in his first 24 games. Hopefully, he can keep that improved performance going when he returns from the IL.
  • Blake Taylor had a terrible appearance in the “Altuve” game against the Yankees. But before that, he had put up an excellent 1.29 ERA in 14 games since his return from the IL.

So…

  • Is the Click discussion on starting pitching a bluff?
  • Can they go forward successfully without trading for another bullpen piece?
  • Do they already have the answer in-house between all these additional options?
  • Would you like to see them go after a “leverage” arm for the bullpen?
    • How much would you give up?

54 comments on “Were we worrying about the wrong thing?

  1. * If Click were actually not in the market for a starting pitcher, it doesn’t hurt to say you are. Maybe you get a few calls and get a handle on who is available and what the market price is.
    * Anytime you can avoid making a phone call and still get to talk without seeming to be desperate to buy, you have a little leverage.
    * It might be that teams might not want to help the Astros, considering how good they already are and how good they will be next season.
    * On the other hand, maybe you do not want to sound like you are shopping for bullpen help, so you throw the starting pitcher thingy out there.
    * On the other hand, maybe the Astros want to bolster their bullpen by adding a starter and putting one of their current starters in the bullpen.
    * On the other hand, maybe the Astros are looking for starters for the next few years and not this year, but are opening the lines of communication.

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  2. Make the best deal(s) for the best pitchers out there, starter or reliever. The Astros reinvented the way post season pitchers were used in 2017. The best guys were used, some in unique ways. Remember the rat? He threw the most innings that year and was left off the post season roster. Without that creatively and non partisan decision making we likely would not have won it all.

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  3. Which is harder to swallow…Garrit Cole pitching a 1-0 complete game
    or getting blown out today 10-0 in the 7th inning?
    Me? Garrit Cole throwing a 128 pitch complete game shut out. THAT was *demoralizing*…but we’ve seen him do that before when he pitches here.
    Our guys slept late today, and it shows.
    By the way the Cubs want WAAAY too much for Kimbrel, and I mean WAY TOO MUCH! Ain’t gonna happen for us anyway!
    Won’t get shut out Toro hit a homerun….about 8 innings too late.

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  4. When this team is good, it is very, very good.

    More often than not lately, however, this team has not been anything close to good.

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  5. Shut out 3 of the last 6 games, what’s not to love.
    Yankees fans living up to their reputation by hitting a Red Sox outfielder in the back with a baseball. And a drive by shooting outside of Nationals park leaves 3 people shot and fans running for their lives. 😠 Some good news, Diaz and Baez are both closing in on their last few games before they come back! I was impressed with Pruitt last night, but like Daveb…where does he fit, Bullpen or starter?? Let’s home Greinke feels like he’s good to go tomorrow!

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    • Grienke
      Framber
      Javier
      Garcia
      Urquidy
      Pressly
      Baez
      Abreu
      Lance
      Stanek
      New guy
      Odorizzi
      Verlander

      My first attempt at a post season pitching roster. Unless the new guy is a lefty, we’re not using one again. How wrong will I be?

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  6. Ignoring the loss because we are still a first place team, I was surprised at the news of Pedro Leon’s promotion to Sugarland this evening.
    I wonder if the Astros are up to something or if they have seen enough of Miguelangel Sierra in the infield at AAA.

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  7. The Astros are reported to be intersted in Starling Marte since he rejected the Marlins extension offer.

    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/07/marlins-starling-marte-end-extension-talks-at-least-three-teams-interested-in-trades.html#comments

    I can’t see the Astros going over the tax threshold for him, but maybe they might be part of a three-way trade with our prospect(s) going to Miami; Marte to a third team; and pitcher(s) to us. I would be interested in Richard Bleier. He is 34 but has low mileage on his lefty arm, with a low salary and throws strikes.

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    • This is Matt Collier’s reply today, yes.
      “Package deal for Marte & forwards-splitsy CTL+GB LHRP Bleier?

      In which case my Oct bullpen is Pressly, Javier, Garcia, Urquidy (?), Bleier, and whoever else for low-leverage duty (Stanek, Baez, Abreu, Taylor, Raley, Scrubb, Paredes?, Solomon?).”

      I believe Marte would put us dangerously close to threshold (~$5M) if we don’t also offload salary, which is arguably a bad move for the future versus: ‘does the player move the dial enough to win the World Series?’ With this move there are certainly a few on 40-man that need to be culled by Rule 5 at the latest.

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    • You could only see a little of it on the replay, but it looked like he almost got hit in the head by the throw home -you can see him ducking down out of the way and that probably discombobulated him. I always thought Calhoun was a good ball player when he was with the Angels.

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  8. Good things about the last two games:
    1. They are over;
    2. none of our guys keeled over and died on the field;
    3. none of our guys got tired out running around the bases;
    4. Abraham Toro kept us from complete and utter humiliation;
    5. Robel Garcia only batted once -and did not fare much worse than any of our regulars.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As far as what the F.O. will/should do regarding the trade deadline, here are my thoughts, Dan, for what they are worth:
    1. There is nobody they can afford that will significantly help us offensively this year; we just need a healthy Bregman a healthy Diaz, and maybe at least a .200 BA out of Martin Maldenado. Anyone who would be added for offense would have to be a long-term control addition [no rental];
    2. Obviously, we do not have a single proven, consistent, elite starter at the top of his game on this team – and it is hard to win the league, much less the WS, without one of those. What we do have, rotation-wise, is one wily old veteran who can pitch his way out of most jams with baseball voo-doo, and who generally manages to do a good job of keeping our high-octane offense within striking distance, teamed up with five unpredictable young ‘Wild Things’: i.e. McCullers, Valdez, Urquidy, Garcia, and Javier. On any given night, any of these five can be either fantastic or horrible, depending on how tight the home plate umpire decides to be on his strike zone. Which one of these – along with Hunter Brown and maybe Abraham Toro – should we be willing to give up for a Max Scherzer? I would say ‘none’; but the Astros F.O. and I have never thought alike, so who knows;
    3. Even more obviously, outside of our closer our bullpen is a M*A*S*H unit. This is our team’s biggest weakness, and everyone knows and exploits it. Our starters’ wildness – and thus their high early pitch counts – exacerbates the problem. Unfortunately, I think we just have too many bullpen holes to realistically hope to fill through trades. We don’t need one dependable reliever – we need six or seven of them to totally revamp the bullpen. Since that is not going to happen, why give up a ton of prospects for just one good bullpen arm? We will still wind up leading the league in blown saves. We are just going to have to muddle through with the disaster that we have – and pray that with Bregman and Diaz’ return, the offense comes back alive and averages a historic level of runs per game.

    Summary: The best way to help this team at the trade deadline is to acquire an elite starting pitcher. The other possibility is planning ahead, shopping around for the shortstop and the center fielder of the future.

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    • I guess with that last comment we can say bye bye to Correa, and Straw and/or McCormick are not the answer. We do need a TOR pitcher. Who that can/will be remains a mystery surrounded by an enigma.
      Otherwise there is no one player that I think that we could acquire that will make “the difference”.

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      • Zan, I still hold on to a glimmer of hope that we will re-sign Carlos, but he’s made it pretty clear that his future services won’t come easy or cheap. Sometimes he seems a bit too fragile for a top-producer, but nevertheless, it can’t be denied that he and Altuve are the guys we miss most when they are out of the line-up. We somehow survived the loss of offensive spark-plug George Springer last year (thanks largely to the resurgence of Yuli and Yordan and the gradual improvement of Myles Straw), but losing Carlos – the anchor of our line-up? That would be a one-two punch to the gut that I’m not sure we could absorb.

        Meanwhile, my thoughts are that until Carlos signs, we have to assume he’s leaving, and that we have to be prepared to move on. OP thinks we have our future SS in house, in Jeremy Pena, and man, would I love for that to be the case. His injury this year makes it really hard to know for sure if his obvious talent will play on the big stage the way Carlos’ has. If we bring in a potential long-term SS, we can always trade him – or Pena, if the guy works out – for pitching later.

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  10. Some comments about the future:
    * Do not count out Pena at SS.
    * Leon looked like a youngster who hadn’t seen pitching for3 years in May.
    Leon looked like a youngster who was starting to figure out AA pitching in June. Leon looked like a guy who was a future star in July. Check his monthly splits and you will see what I am talking about.
    * For 2022 the Astros have Alvarez, Brantley, Tucker, Straw, McCormick, De La Cruz and Meyers in the outfield. The final two have torn up AAA pitching and I mean “literally” torn it up. One or more of these players are probably going to be traded at the deadline. There are too many ex-Astros outfielders starting for other teams to deny that the Astros produce major league talent in the outfield.
    * The Astros have their two “regular” catchers under contract for 2022. But Korey Lee is looking like he will be ready for the majors in 2023.
    * The Astros would love to shore up their pitching by October without going over the luxury tax levels. Is it possible? They will spend money on pitching in the offseason. I think they will try to find an ace then.

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    • Do we think Leon might be a one year stop gap at SS waiting for Pena and then he would head back to the outfield in sync with Uncle Mike leaving?

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      • Personally, the Myles Straw at SS experiment pretty much soured me on trying to make infielders out of outfielders – even temporarily. Kind of like the Craig Biggio experiment when we tried to make an outfielder out of an infielder/former catcher.

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      • Opinion: No.
        Leon at SS is strictly secondary, like Straw.
        I am too sticking with prediction De La Cruz (or Meyers) beats Leon to the majors, and frankly they’re all solidly blocked. No harm while Leon amasses his 400+ MiLB at-bats.

        Pena is the future but his Apr 20 left wrist surgery probably has us leaning toward placeholder in top end $emien ’22, to low end $ Diaz/Bregman, ’til Pena comes online. Fans so often fall into trap by ever comparing Straw to Springer, same as Pena to Correa. The money savings has allowed flexibility to spend elsewhere. My thinking Astros have stuck with Robel Garcia because he doesn’t really threaten Correa & Altuve in ’21, but he must be let go soon after Aledmys returns!

        Timelines are so important as you begin to see in the Amateur Draft. Astros are constantly thinking which players will be contemporaries, and if there are too many with same ETA, they draft younger. One note that may hasten Leon is Yuli Gurriel is his idol.

        Btw, I think it’s a bit of a concern that our first 2 picks have not signed yet. Many predicted they will be O/S and given more money than projected. Given the spread we drafted and with the least amount of money ($2,940,600), I have my doubts we will sign them both, particularly Ulloa speaking of SS. If we don’t eyes turn back to developing Dauri Lorenzo and Shay Whitcomb for that 2024 window.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Missing out on either Whitaker or Ulla would be ugly. Missing the entire first two rounds makes signing the three or four highest guys we actually took seem like an absolute necessity. When people on twitter self-righteously bemoan that the Astros got ‘no punishment’ for the 2017 scandal, they conveniently ignore the loss of those all-important draft opportunities.

        Liked by 2 people

    • That’s why I don’t get the mention of Starling Marte, unless something is going on with three or more teams and he somehow helps us hold on to outfielders we don’t want to lose. And Korey Lee would almost be an untouchable for me right now.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. While nobody really hit consistently in the White Sox series, the worst of the bunch was Yordan Alvarez. He went 0-11 with 0 BBs and 6 Ks. He looked lost as a goose. So, was it just good [or should I say ‘great’] pitching by the Sox, too much of an ASG layover for new-daddy Yordan, or is something wrong with those knees or hips?

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  12. I agree with GoStros1’s first paragraph concerning outfielders.
    I don’t agree with his last paragraph about the draft picks. I think the first two HS draftees will sign and the money saved will allow us to go after the last two.

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    • I should say too that “concern” is relative in the sense that if we cannot sign the first two picks which has been reported they both have verbal agreements, that the money saved will go to the other 24 picks. We also have signed 6 undrafted already, I saw reported earlier today. My comment was relative to seeing other teams having signed their 1st picks almost hourly, so it may just be anxious thoughts; and curious to see if they get overslot.

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  13. Tito had to use his bullpen A LOT in the last two days, so it might get interesting to see who he has to go to tonight. Just about anyone not named Bregman starting at 3rd base is a disaster. …but I’m willing to give Garcia a chance….maybe. Crossing my fingers that Zack has a good game tonight!

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  14. Pedro Baez pitched a second rehab outing for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers yesterday. So far, in two appearances, 2 IP, 0 runs allowed, one hit, one walk, 1 K. He still has a ways to go to get to Houston, but that’s a good start!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. On another note, I know I have stated that I believe Espada will be the next Astros’ manager. I have another, way out in left field, candidate that would be immensely unpopular, among other teams’ fans, and maybe some of our own, but he would move the needle big time along the path of Hinch. First, look at all the players from the 2017 team that are playing on other teams without any enmity from those teams’ fans. Players such as Fiers, Guduan, Will Harris, Keuchel, McHugh, Morton, Musgrove, Peacock, Stassi, Marwin, Kemp, Teoscar, Reddick, Springer, and managers Hinch and Cora. I have not heard THOSE people being booed.

    So, I am prepared to introduce someone from that 2017 Astros team, who is intelligent, has the ear of players, and is a great leader both on and off the field. He will be booed soundly by opposing fans but, since the aforementioned players and managers get a pass from their fans, I don’t care what they do.

    I introduce to you, for your discussion, my new ideal for the Astros manager position for the season 2022… Carlos Beltran.

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    • Now that’s trash-can-banging funny, Sarge! Just imagine how the national media would howl if he won manager of the year managing the ‘Stros – or if the boys in Orange and Blue won the AL and/or the WS, making him the AL Manager in the All-Star game! I bet MLB would find a way to cancel the game outright!

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      • Sarge, we’d never hear the end of it. But then again, we might never hear the end of it anyway!

        NY newspapers have already put out the “Beltran isn’t so bad, look how everyone else got their job back” headlines. They’ll be big time suitors in the Correa sweepstakes too.

        My feeling is Crane wants to rid house of that narrative, and I like your first idea best with Espada. Unless we can get Kevin Cash!

        Like

    • I was wondering the same thing. Tucker got hosed twice on questionable calls. Umpire has a generous K zone for Cleveland Pitching. Yordan finally gets a hit. A BIG hit. Need more runs.

      Like

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