There is no telling if the Astros will be buyers or sellers during the last two weeks in July.
Even though the Astros are climbing the standings, the team’s front office may not sit still during the trade deadline. Maybe the team will take on both roles of buyer and seller?
Per a recent report from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Astros have made it be known that Scott Feldman, Josh Fields, and Pat Neshek all are on the trade block. Talk about a bit of a surprising development.
Two of the pitchers mentioned in Heyman’s report, Feldman and Neshek, have been reliable contributors to the Astros pitching staff. Fields, however, has been toiling away with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies since early on this season.
Parting ways with Feldman and/or Neshek could have negative repercussions on a bullpen that currently ranks first in FIP (3.07), first in WAR (5.6), and fifth in ERA (3.20). Feldman has in many ways become the symbol of the revitalized Astros bullpen in 2016 as he has successfully (1.61 ERA in 17 appearances) made the conversion from starter to long reliever. That kind of production isn’t easy to replicate. And Neshek with his side-arm delivery has held right-handed hitters to a .145 wOBA and .176 OBP.
While same can’t exactly be said for Fields, who had a 6.89 ERA in 15 appearances with the Astros this season, still provides valuable depth for a team that is one injury away from needing help in the bullpen. But the emergence of Michael Feliz and Chris Devenski have lessened the need for Fields on the Astros active roster.
However, this rumor drives the point home of how thin the reliever market is this year. There are plenty of teams that would be willing to part ways with promising prospects in exchange for an effective reliever for the stretch run. Even contenders could be willing to trade off a reliever or two if improving the long-term future of the club is in question. And the issue of salary relief, especially for the Astros, remains a constant source of motivation.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Feldman, such as, is making $8 million in the last year of his 3-year, $30 million dollar contract that he signed a few years ago. And Neshek is making $6.5 million in the last year of his deal that he signed two off-seasons ago.
So it is reasonable from the Astros point-of-view to at least test the market for these two relievers that could net not only prospects but also salary relief. If that happens, then odds may improve for the Astros in making a big splash at the deadline to put themselves over the top in the AL West.
Regardless, the Astros may not want to trade too much of their relief depth as they continue their push in the playoff race. Pitching becomes more a premium as the season inches closer to the Fall Classic, especially when pitchers who can double as a starter and a reliever are involved.
**Statistics and salary information provided by Fangraphs & Spotrac.com**