A brief look at three potential Astros trade targets to make the team more playoff ready.
The Houston Astros are coming off a disappointing game where they struggled with runners in scoring position. George Springer finally came through in the ninth inning with a three-run blast bringing them within two runs. They will lose some games. It was just a frustrating game with the double plays and pop-ups. Looking ahead, most people will argue this point, but the Astros should trade for a top starter.
Yes, we know that Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh could return sometime after the All-Star break. Charlie Morton pitched in his second rehab game with the Fresno Grizzlies going four shutout innings. The rotation will get healthy, and some guys got some valuable experience filling in for the injured starters. They have enough starters to win big in the regular season, but the playoffs is a different story.
Over the next five weeks, you will hear four names mostly linked to the Astros. Names that you may not hear because they are still in competition are Chris Archer, Ervin Santana, Alex Cobb, and Jason Vargas. Some teams will rise and fall between now and the trade deadline, but let’s look at some of the names we will be watching.
After the Astros had faced Gray last week, people were backing off trading for him. Houston is still the best team in baseball, so I’m not too worried about one bad start for Gray. In June, Gray has struck out 34 hitters in 30 1/3 innings. He has allowed 12 walks, two homers, and 14 earned runs. That’s a 4.15 ERA.
Take away the five earned runs that he allowed in the first inning versus the Astros, he would be looking better. As the with the other guys, he is not having a great season overall. He is 3-3 with a 4.45 ERA while striking out 65 batters in 64 2/3 innings. Gray has missed some time with injuries and could need a change of scenery. Getting away from the last place Athletics could bring out his inner ace.
I know, Quintana was the laughing-stock of baseball getting off to a 0-4 start with a 6.17 ERA. Despite those struggles, Quintana had 20 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Since that game, Quintana has gone 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA while striking out 74 hitters in 71 1/3 inning. During that 12 game stretch, the White Sox are 8-4 when he pitches.
Maybe after the stress of the offseason trade talk, he was trying too hard to impress early in the season as the ace. With Chris Sale gone, that’s what he was. Now he is returning to his previous form. Credit to the White Sox for waiting it out and not selling him low with his struggles. Now, there will be plenty of teams after him despite his 4-8 record with a 4.37 ERA. He has 94 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings.
Unlike the other two, Cole had a 2.84 ERA after his ninth start this year with the Pirates. Then he hit a brick wall, a brutal four-game stretch where he didn’t get past five innings in any start. In those 19 innings, he allowed eight homers and 23 earned runs. His ERA was 10.71 during that stretch, raising his ERA to 4.83.
The next three games, he pitched better upping his trade value. During that stretch, Cole has pitched 20 innings with a 1.35 ERA while striking out 11 hitters. Unlike the other two, Cole’s strikeouts are down this year, only striking out 79 hitters in 96 1/3 innings.
All these guys have multi years of control left. These are the targets the Astros will most likely chase, not just looking at 2017 with a rental. Gray and Cole have playoff experience, while Quintana has been consistent over his career. None of them would be the ace over Keuchel or Lance McCullers. However, they would be a great third pitcher in the playoffs.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***