Astros: Deadline dud not death knell for team

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 25: Francisco Liriano #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 25, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 25: Francisco Liriano #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws in the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 25, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

The Astros’ underwhelming trade deadline has many fans seeing red, but the season is far from over.

For the second straight season, the Astros disappointed fans at the trade deadline. After being connected to the likes of Sonny Gray, Zach Britton, Justin Wilson and others, GM Jeff Luhnow declined to make a big splash. The lone move was to bring in Francisco Liriano in hopes he can morph into the lefty-neutralizing reliever Tony Sipp was supposed to be.

Admittedly, I wanted Luhnow to make a big move. I wanted that excitement and that commitment to going for a championship. What stung even more was watching the Dodgers do just that, acquiring Yu Darvish, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani.

Yet through all the angry Twitter reactions and the calls for Luhnow to be fired, it’s important to retain some perspective. Yes, it’s disappointing to miss out on a big name when your team is in a pennant race. But it’s not the end of the world.

Health is Key

The Astros currently have Carlos Correa, George Springer, Lance McCullers and Will Harris on the disabled list. Dallas Keuchel is just returning from his lengthy absence, while a few others have spent time on the shelf for various ailments. The biggest advantage a team can have in October is having their key players healthy and producing.

Even if Luhnow had splurged to get Gray and Britton, it wouldn’t make a difference in that regard. If they’re missing core players in October, their World Series chances are minimal anyway. A fully rested and healthy Astros team can stand toe to toe with anyone, including the beefed-up Dodgers.

Trades Still Possible

July 31 is the non-waiver trade deadline, but trades often happen in August. It can be a little more difficult to work them out, but the possibility is there. Players with big contracts, such as Justin Verlander, could easily pass through waivers and become trade fodder in August.

One certainty is that Luhnow will be monitoring the trade market throughout the month. If a trade makes sense, he’ll pull the trigger. Don’t assume the Astros are done tinkering with the roster just because we’ve turned the calendar from July.

Big Moves Don’t Guarantee Success

Even if Luhnow is done making moves, that doesn’t mean the team would be any worse off. Recall the 2015 season when the team made bold moves for Carlos Gomez and Scott Kazmir, neither of which worked out particularly well.

The lesson there is, of course, that fortune doesn’t always favor the bold. The Astros gave up a handful of prospects for two guys who didn’t make a big difference in October. The Dodgers may have won the trade deadline, but they’re no closer to a championship than they were when the day started.

Team Retains Future Flexibility

One benefit of eschewing the big splash is keeping the farm system intact for the future. This allows the team to have more assets, which means more flexibility for moves down the road. If they want to make an August trade, they can do it. If they want to make a big move in the offseason, they can do that too.

It also allows them flexibility in the event of injuries, decline or departures by more established players. Keeping the pipeline flowing is important for the long-term success of the franchise. The front office has this in mind, so don’t expect any more 111-loss seasons anytime soon.

Next: Astros Strike a Deal for Francisco Liriano

Outcome Uncertain

The bottom line is that championships are not won or lost on July 31, just as they are not won or lost in the offseason. The Astros have a great team that, if healthy, is more than capable of making history. Even better, they had a 16-game division lead entering play on Monday, meaning they have time to rest their key players and get healthy. If this team is at full strength come October, the lack of a big deadline trade won’t hurt them.

**Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference**