The Houston Astros will assuredly be buyers at the trade deadline this season. They are currently in one of the two coveted top seeds that earn a bye from an unpredictable best two out of three wild card series.
It’s usually prospects in the farm system that are sold off, but the Astros have an odd situation on their hands where the talent at the major league level dwarfs that of their prospects’ potential by a large margin.
While the Baltimore Orioles seem to have more major league ready talent in the minors than on their professional roster, the Astros are feeling the consequences of losing first and second round picks for two years as a result of their punishment from the 2017 sign stealing scandal.
Fortunately, the Astros have had a lot of unheralded prospects step up in the face of this talent chasm.
Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier were not really ever considered top prospects. While all we seemed to hear about pitching wise over the years was Mark Appel, Francis Martes and Forrest Whitley, it was these under-the-radar pitchers who have supplanted them and fulfilled the promise that these former top prospects had.
But they are four pitchers out of, when healthy, seven starters not to mention the Astros’ No. 1 prospect Hunter Brown who seems pretty ready to come up and help whether as a starter or reliever this year.
Considering the glut of starting pitching depth the Astros have, they should consider Jose Urquidy as a trade asset.
This is all under the condition that both Jake Odorizzi and Lance McCullers Jr. come back healthy. I would not deal a starter under any condition other than that. So while the Astros play the waiting game to see what needs they have to address, I want to stress this is a “break in case of emergency” situation where the starting pitching can sustain without Urquidy due to its depth.
Urquidy would be highly valued on the trade market. He is 24-years-old, has pitched well in World Series games, throws a lot of strikes and rarely walks anyone. The downside is he throws so many strikes he is prone to blowout games where when he finds the zone too much and hitters tee off on him.
But he is a solid pitcher with postseason experience that doesn’t walk anybody. And while he is prone to giving up big innings and a lot of home runs, he still is someone who went 8-3 in 2021 with a 3.62 ERA and is 24-years-old with team control through 2025.
To reiterate, this will of course all be dependent on a healthy return from McCullers, Odorizzi and/or Brown being able to step up into the rotation if needed.
But considering the Astros’ farm system can’t take another hit as they have already graduated former top prospect Jeremy Peña and now have Brown as their sole top 100 prospect — ranking 96th — they may need to get creative to fill the holes they have at center field and catcher.
The most interesting component to this is that Urquidy could be dealt to someone rebuilding or to a contender who is looking for starting pitching depth. With his team control perhaps, the Astros could even rebuild the farm system while getting back a solid rental player considering Urquidy’s age and contract.
This is just a way of looking at the creative risks the Astros front office may have to take considering their depleted farm system if they want to make a competitive offer for an impact player.
If McCullers and Odorizzi come back healthy, there’s no place for him and both Javier and Garcia seem to have higher ceilings. It’ll be something general manager James Click should consider as we approach the dilemma of a fully healthy rotation with not enough spots and holes at catcher and center field.