With the All-Star break a week away, the MLB trade season will soon be in full effect. Who should the Astros chase?
The Houston Astros currently sit atop the AL West 15.5 games in front of the second-place Los Angeles Angels. The Astros will be buyers in the trade market, but what exactly do they need to acquire?
Many writers have suggested that Houston is in great need of another quality starter. Pitchers like Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana, Chris Archer, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have all been linked to the Astros wish list. However, none of those pitchers are in their top form thus far this season, and their price tag would likely be steep.
Two questions face the Astros at midseason.
How much does Houston need to improve to feel comfortable as a World Series contender, and at what price?
Seeing that the Astros are the best team in baseball and have hardly slowed down since opening day, the amount of improvement needed is minuscule compared to other teams.
The Houston offense is second to none in baseball and continues to throttle opposing pitching on a nightly basis, with multiple players having career years. The offense is definitely not something the Astros need to look for, so the only need is pitching. Now the question is what kind of pitching is needed? Starting pitching, relief, or both?
The Astros spent basically the entire month of June with their starting pitching decimated by injury and went 16-11. Houston only played one series against a notable contender in Boston. The Astros lost that three-game set 2-1 and lost both games by one run. But that Houston could not only tread water but actually gain ground without their entire starting rotation shows incredible depth at that position. This depth did take a hit when David Paulino was suspended for PED use.
That month also took a toll on the Houston bullpen. In the month of June, the bullpen’s ERA was a season high 5.14. Relievers took the mound 95 times that month, and accrued 103.1 innings pitched that month, both numbers are the highest of this season.
It’s now July, and the starters are trickling back on the mound. Lance McCullers pitched yesterday, Charlie Morton will pitch tonight, and Dallas Keuchel should get the ball after the All-Star break. Collin McHugh has also been on a throwing program and is ramping up for a return in the second half. With the resurgence of Mike Fiers, and the emergence of Brad Peacock as quality starters, the Astros appear to be just fine with starting pitching and have additional depth with Francis Martes.
Adding a quality reliever and more importantly, a left-handed reliever should be the main goal for the Astros in 2017. While adding one of the aforementioned starters might add a notable name to the starting staff, it would come at a price that doesn’t need to be paid by an organization that is primed to be a dynasty for considerable future.