The Astros come back from the All-Star break with a 64-35 record and have a five-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for first place.
Right before the break, the Astros optioned struggling closer Ken Giles to Triple-A Fresno after an outbreak on the mound when manager AJ Hinch pulled him after allowing three straight hits. Giles was clearly frustrated and left the mound mouthing some harsh words to Hinch. That was the final straw for the Astros.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Astros have the prospects to get a dominant closer. The obvious choice is Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles. With their latest departure of Manny Machado, it shows that the Orioles are rebuilding.
The Astros have intriguing prospects in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker, but general manager Jeff Luhnow already made it clear those two are off the table. It will probably require three to four prospects to obtain Britton.
The Astros could be willing to deal Yordan Alvarez who they acquired from the Dodgers in 2016 for Josh Fields. The 21-year-old outfielder/first baseman blossomed into the Astros 3rd best prospect behind Whitley and Tucker. He was just promoted to Triple-A after hitting .325/.389/.615 in 43 Double-A this season. With the departure of Machado, it allows a need for an infielder, and that leads the way for J.D. Davis to become an Oriole, he has hit .282/.345/.527 with 26 homers, 40 walks, and 108 strikeouts in 412 at-bats with Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno. He has also had a brief stint in the big leagues hitting .226/.279/.484 with four homers, four walks, and 20 strikeouts in 62 major league at-bats.
The Astros 16th best prospect is Framber Valdez, who is a 24-year-old LHP out of the Dominican who has a fastball that gets up to 96 mph and has a curveball/changeup to counter his fastball. In High-A he was dominant posting a 2.79 ERA with 73/29 K/BB in 61 innings. However, he struggled a bit in Double-A but his strikeout to walk ratio remains the same meaning he could be poised for a closer role shortly.
With the All-Star capabilities of Britton, the Astros will probably need to offer a fourth player in this deal. Either David Paulino or Cionel Perez could take that spot to help obtain Britton. Paulino has had some negatives in the past coming off of elbow injuries and a PED suspension.
However, Paulino has a lot of positives with a powerful fastball that tops out at 98 mph from the right side and adds a nice curve and change to complement his fastball. Perez, on the other hand, made his Major League debut against Oakland before the break. He threw 1 2/3 innings allowing two hits and one run while striking out two and walking two. He has a low nineties fastball, but he throws a lot of strikes and tends to hit his spots very well for a younger pitcher.
All of these prospects have the opportunity to be in play for Britton. More likely it will take four players to acquire the two-time All-Star who has 129 career saves and a 3.29 career ERA.
The deadline is July 31st, meaning Luhnow has some time to debate whether or not he wants to make an impactful move to acquire the lefty or to allow some other players such as Hector Rondon, Will Harris, and Chris Devenski to see if they have what it takes to be the Astros full-time closer.