Astros: Abraham Toro could boost trade stock for July

Abraham Toro could become prime trade bait for the Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros are going to be without star third baseman Alex Bregman for an undetermined length of time, and while that’s certainly not ideal, it does offer an opportunity. Namely, it allows 24-year-old Abraham Toro to get some regular playing time for the major league club and to potentially become an intriguing trade chip.

Toro has been one of the team’s better prospects for the last couple of years but has been blocked at the major league level by Bregman. Unless the Astros envision him to be their first baseman of the future, which doesn’t seem likely given the outstanding production they’re getting from Yuli Gurriel, he doesn’t appear to have a path to an everyday job in Houston.

We don’t know how long Bregman will be out, but it’s not likely he’ll be out for the season. Aledmys Diaz should also return from his fractured hand at some point this year, so Toro’s path to playing time will eventually close. He needs to make the most of this opportunity if he wants to prove he can be more than a career backup.

The switch-hitting Toro is a career .202/.284/.346 hitter in 67 major league games, though he’s hit a combined .392/.497/.600 in 33 games at the Triple-A level between 2019 and 2021. He’s played well since he was called back up this year and will continue to battle Robel Garcia for playing time. If Toro continues to hit, the Astros could parlay that into a nice upgrade elsewhere on the roster.

Glaring Area of Need

The Astros lineup has produced quite well despite the loss of George Springer, and the starting rotation has excellent depth right now. The bullpen, however, is another story entirely. Ryan Pressly has pitched well, Brooks Raley and Ryne Stanek have had their good days and a few bad ones, and Blake Taylor has been solid since coming off the Injured List earlier this month.

But even with Cristian Javier pitching in relief, the bullpen is still very thin at the back end. GM James Click should (and likely will) be scouring the trade market leading up to the July 30 trading deadline to try and find an impact reliever to join Pressly. He can’t afford to hope that Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes and Andre Scrubb manage to turn things around.

The hard part will be making the finances work. Given that they are right up against the luxury tax threshold, the Astros will be hesitant (if not entirely unwilling) to take on additional salary. But if they want to have the best shot at winning another World Series, they will have to find a way to beef up what has been a weak bullpen thus far.

The Pittsburgh Pirates could be a logical trade partner if they trade incumbent second baseman Adam Frazier, as they could try Toro there or shift first baseman Colin Moran over. Their closer, 31-year-old right-hander Richard Rodriguez, is relatively affordable and is having an excellent season, pitching to a 1.91 ERA and 0.741 WHIP in 27 appearances.

But for any kind of deal to work, Toro will need to post respectable numbers over the next month. The Astros will surely benefit from his production on the field in Bregman’s absence, but they could benefit even more if they can trade him for a desperately-needed arm for the back end of the bullpen.