The Astros and their MLB brethren are about ten days from the trade deadline of August 2. (Why August 2? It must have had something to do with the lockout settlement). It is strange to have a team like the Astros that is only 2-1/2 games out of the top record in the MLB held by the Yankees and on a pace for their best season record with so many perceived holes.
We’ve seen articles such as the following lately…
There is a lot of perception tinged by inside knowledge involved here. Do the Astros need another top two or three arms in their rotation? Are they filling any spots beyond 2022? Are some of these injuries (Michael Brantley, Jason Castro) worse than revealed to this point? Are they trying to unload players they don’t want to protect in Rule 5? Is there an untouchable list headed by Hunter Brown (He heads my list)? What does the Front Office know they keep close to their vest?
Let’s look at position needs or potential needs….
The offensive side of the catcher position has been truly offensive, a recent warming trend by Martin Maldonado notwithstanding. There have been whispers that the depths of backup Jason Castro’s knee injury will be revealed soon and could be bad. Based on the fact that the team has barely used young Korey Lee since he has been called up, it does not feel like they will feel comfortable with him as Maldy’s backup down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The top catcher supposedly available is the Cubs’ Willson Contreras, who would be a rental – owed about $3 MM for the rest of this season before becoming a free agent. One of the best catchers on a non-contender who might be available and has some years of control is the A’s, Sean Murphy. Would the A’s trade within their division, and if they did, would it be to the hated Astros?
Who else is out there under the radar that the Astros might pursue?
Catcher feels like a spot the Astros could use a boost.
You can never have enough pitching, but the Astros, with potentially a slate of seven solid to excellent starters, might be on the cusp, especially when you usually only need four starters in the playoffs. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jake Odorizzi, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and potentially Lance McCullers Jr. make seven potential starters with ERAs spanning from 1.89 to 3.93.
If they could pick up a Luis Castillo, who has been excellent this season and has another year of control, would they do it based on potentially losing Verlander after this season?
It is hard to picture them expending prospect capital in this area, especially when they have someone like Hunter Brown knocking on the door to the majors, behind the still controllable Valdez, Javier, Urquidy, and Garcia.
The centerfield spot has been the weak spot in the outfield this season. Jose Siri was pure bad. Chas McCormick has looked bad against right-handed pitching, which unfortunately constitutes the majority of the pitchers in the league, and we are unsure of how good or ready Jake Meyers is. The other question mark here is whether Michael Brantley is returning any time soon. Left field has been adequately filled mostly between Yordan Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz, though Yordan’s propensity for injury makes this problematic. Of course, right field is manned by All Star Kyle Tucker.
One of those potential rentals that has been bandied about has been the Royals Andrew Benintendi, who is having a fine year and will be a free agent after the season. There could be many others obviously that could be pulled in for the rest of the season or longer.
A couple wild cards here tie to Brantley’s injury and his potential recovery and how the team feels about young Pedro Leon, who has seemingly turned the corner in his development this season at AAA.
The Astros have a healthy first baseman. His name is Yuli Gurriel. He is 38 years old and, after a rejuvenation season in 2021, has fallen back into very similar poor numbers he showed in the 2020 pandemic shortened season. Yuli becomes a free agent after this season.
The big-name tossed out here is the National’s Josh Bell. He is a power-hitting switch hitter who will be a free agent after the season. He has been great this season with a .308 BA/ .389 OBP/ .889 OPS with 50 RBIs on a poor team. He is a Texas kid who might be willing to sign on for a longer term after the season.
The Astros have not tended towards making this kind of decision in the middle of the season without an injury involved. Is there any chance they might replace one of the columns of their championship teams?
The Astros, along with having the best ERA among starting pitchers in the AL have the best ERA for the relief staff in the whole majors. Still, it feels like they could use another dominant arm or so for the back side of the bullpen. They do not have a lefty in the bullpen and even if Blake Taylor returns, they do not have a dominant lefty.
The real question here is what would their playoff bullpen look like? Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero, Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek are sure things. Bryan Abreu has been solid, Phil Maton has been up and down, while Seth Martinez has been very good. You have to believe that two or three of the starters who will not be in the playoff rotation will move into the bullpen.
In the end, the front office led by James Click will have to balance what they need this season to win it all against what the sustainable future looks like. They will make or not make trades based on how they value the prospects they have in hand and where they believe they best apply them. This will be an interesting and possibly telling week and a half.
How would you rank the Astros needs heading into the trade deadline?
Which needs do you think the Astros will actually address with a trade?