A Look at a trade with the Rays to help the Astros.
As July ends, the playoff race and trade deadline are in full effect. The Houston Astros now sit five games behind the rival Texas Rangers in the AL West and 1.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. Houston has lost five in a row, including a heartbreaking loss Saturday night to the Detroit Tigers.
If Houston is looking to improve their club via trade, places of improvement could be another bat, specifically in the outfield, starting rotation and left-handed bullpen pitching. With the Alex Bregman call up and the Yulieski Gurriel signing, it appears that the Houston front office is trying to bolster the offense with those two moves, leaving pitching as the sole spot of opportunity.
While Chris Sale would be a game-changing addition, it would also be a farm system-depleting addition. Houston gave up a lot last year for Ken Giles, Carlos Gomez, and Mike Fiers, they don’t need to give up a ton more of prospects. A mid-rotation starter and another respectable lefty arm could do this club a world of good, and add some depth.
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Let’s first analyze the Astros current pitching situation. Per starters, Doug Fister has been an incredible signing by Jeff Luhnow and has been the strongest pitcher for Houston since opening day. Dallas Keuchel has appeared to right the ship and has posted a 2.33 ERA in the month of July entering today’s game versus Detroit. Lance McCullers has come on strong this season and is delivering quality and somewhat dominating performances as of late.
Collin McHugh has had some good stretches, but also has shown some of the worst pitching performances of all Astros starters this season, an Fiers falls into the same description, only more inconsistent. Bottom line, the Astros could use another starting pitcher down the stretch to minimize the inconsistencies and provides depth should an injury occur.
As for the bullpen, and left-handed pitching specifically, you have Tony Sipp. Sipp has struggled mightily this season, and simply cannot be relied on down the stretch as the go-to lefty. This is a definite area of need the Astros need to address. Left-handed pitchers, in general, are scarce to find on the Houston 40-man roster with Keuchel, Sipp, and Kevin Chapman as the only southpaws. Chapman, in AAA Fresno currently has a 6.28 ERA in the 2016 season. Behind him is Reymin Guduan who is pitching well with a 2.41 ERA, and not on the 40-man roster.
So who should the Astros target?
The Astros should make a trade for LHP Matt Moore and LHP Xavier Cedeno. Moore is currently 7-7 with a 4.08 ERA. However, if you take out the month of May, his numbers look a lot better. In July he is 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. His contract is average with team options through 2019, making him more than just a rental.
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Cedeno, who was with the Astros back in 2011-13, has put together some decent seasons since being placed on waivers by Houston. He is under team control through 2019, has pitched 32.2 innings, accumulating a 3.58 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and LHB is hitting .180 against him. While he isn’t a dominating performer, he is more than serviceable, and also not just a rental.
Both of these players could add depth and value to our pitching staff down the stretch, and though they would absolutely cost us prospects, the price tag would be far less than a Sale, Chris Archer, or any other top tier available pitchers on the market.
Who could we part with? Could we part with either Tony Kemp or Teoscar Hernandez? I think so. I think Colin Moran could definitely be a trade piece, though that might be a tough sell to Tampa with Longoria under contract through 2022. Also, Guduan or Jandel Gustave could be expendable pieces.
We will see soon if the Astros decide to make a move, they don’t need to make a big splash, but a small ripple in some trade waters might to this club some good.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***