As reported by Jon Morosi, the Houston Astros are exploring a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. Although we have known of Max Scherzer being in discussions with the front office, general manager James Click has spoken more recently on the subject. Most contenders will make that blockbuster trade for an elite rotational piece, as seen in Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke in years past
Over the next week, the league will change, but the starting pitcher market isn’t as strong as years past. A high-leverage bullpen arm makes the most sense, but the idea of bolstering the rotation and bumping a starter to a reliever could be as effective.
With a lackluster market of All-Star starters, where could the Houston Astros turn?
Scherzer is the best option on the block, as most of the other starters in recent rumors look like lateral moves for the Astros. In Scherzer’s case, he can flash his trade block clause and is looking for an extension for wherever he lands, as he is a free agent in 2022. While we don’t know his opinion on Houston, there aren’t many starters of his caliber available.
The Minnesota Twins have begun selling their large pieces, as they have heavily underperformed in 2021. With Jose Berrios being one of their most valuable assets, more buzz is swarming in his talks. FanSided provided the idea of the Astros targeting the right-hander, while shipping Kyle Tucker away as the return.
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This doesn’t seem plausible for Houston at all, while the outfield can’t take that kind of hit. Also, Tucker has lived up to his prospect hype the past two season, while still under team control.
Berrios is a two-time All-Star, who is controllable through 2022 pending arbitration according to Baseball Reference. The Astros would need to unload some top prospects in their return for a starter like Berrios, who would bolster the rotation.
There are other pitchers rumored to be trade targets like Kyle Gibson of the Texas Rangers, but with some inter-division bias, I don’t think Gibson will go to the Astros all that easy. The All-Star has hit a road bump since the break that could be tampering with his trade value.
Andrew Heaney, Alex Cobb, Sony Gray, Michael Pineda, Jon Gray and German Marquez have all heard some chatter over the last few weeks, but these arms don’t seem like major adjustments to the state of the current rotation. Even with Jose Urquidy on the injured list, the Astros have depth that is in the same category as some of these trade chips.
The organization hasn’t been rumored in discussion with any other team than the Washington Nationals. So, where do the Astros turn? If they unload for Scherzer, will they have the pieces for a high-leverage reliever as well? The market will fluctuate over the next four days, but there doesn’t seem to be many high-end starters to target.