Expect Houston Astros GM James Click to make an addition to the team’s bullpen before the trade deadline.
It’s that time of year, folks — the baseball version of the holiday season. The trade deadline comes on Monday, and though it probably won’t be as active as in a typical year, there should still be some movement. Houston Astros GM James Click will be navigating these waters for the first time, and I expect him to come away with a shiny new relief pitcher.
The Astros are in a pretty good position as they approach the trade deadline, sitting 4.5 games back of the division-leading Oakland A’s but with a comfortable 5.5-game lead over the three stooges at the bottom of the standings (aka the Mariners, Rangers and Angels). With the expanded postseason format this year, every team that finishes first or second in their respective division will be in the playoffs.
Click could choose to stand pat and the team would still be a near-lock for the postseason. Alex Bregman should return next month along with Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy and possibly Austin Pruitt. There’s even a chance that Justin Verlander will be able to return, as he continues to work toward that possibility.
Still, Click will do his due diligence and keep an eye on the trade market, as the Astros could theoretically use some help in the lineup, in the rotation and in the bullpen. But when you consider the totality of the circumstances, I think the only move this team makes is to add another arm to the bullpen.
Playing it Safe
I wrote recently that the Astros should stay away from any blockbusters at this trade deadline, and I stand firm on that. They don’t have the prospect capital (or the dire need) to acquire a frontline starter or impact bat, which is fine considering the most impactful starters who could be available are Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Lance Lynn.
The Rangers are unlikely to trade Lynn within the division, and as far as Tyler and Sunshine are concerned, the only worse thing that Click could do for this team is to bring back Mike Fiers. Anyone else probably wouldn’t be an upgrade over what the Astros currently have, so there’s not much point.
With Bregman returning, the offense should be just fine, and Aledmys Diaz will be back as well. The loss of Yordan Alvarez will hurt, of course, but the lineup should produce just fine without him. The emergence of Kyle Tucker as an impact bat will help soften the blow there.
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But the bullpen is another story. Roberto Osuna is out, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski have struggled and dealt with injuries, and Ryan Pressly has been shaky. Blake Taylor, Andre Scrubb and Enoli Paredes have been solid, and hopefully Peacock will give them a shot in the arm, but there’s still room for more. Having a bullpen full of rookies in the postseason isn’t necessarily the best idea.
I won’t go so far as to predict who I think Click will acquire at the trade deadline, but there are several options. I recently argued in favor of Trevor Rosenthal, and my colleague Josh Sippie noted three possibilities in Sam Selman, Richard Rodriguez and Jordan Romano. The Royals may also want to move Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland, though the Pirates’ chances of moving Keone Kela just took a hit after he was put on the Injured List.
If Brent Strom thinks he can work some magic, perhaps Click could take a flier on Boston’s struggling Matt Barnes, who the last-place Sox would surely like to move. The Giants may also want to move Tony Watson, who’s having an excellent season thus far.
I would expect Click to gravitate toward pitchers who are on expiring contracts, as the cost to acquire them would be less. In many of these situations, it would just take a “player to be named later” to get the deal done, which would probably end up as a mid-range prospect, maybe someone in the lower half of the team’s Top 30 prospects.
There will be plenty of other teams looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline, so it’s going to be an interesting field to navigate. But in the end, I believe Click will come away with one veteran reliever to add to this talented but very young group in the Astros bullpen.