There are plenty of first basemen worth pursuing on the trade market this season for the Astros.
The Houston Astros have been a league-leading offensive team in June and July and runs have been easier to come by than they were at the start of the year. At the same time, however, they have a few players on the IL, and with no one on the bench to truly make an impact, they need to be active at the trade deadline. Yuli Gurriel has been less than stellar in his production at first base, slashing .230/.283/.385 with a .668 OPS at the time of writing.
The 38-year-old has had some iconic Astros moments and is also a fan favorite with the best hair in the MLB, but he is definitely on the decline. Last season, he had a mere 15 home runs and is currently on track for less, with 7 home runs at a little more than the half-season mark. At such a prime position for power hitters, Yuli just isn’t producing like he used to, like in 2019 when he hit 31 homers and drove in 104, or 2018 when he hit 13 homers and drove in 85 with a .291 average. This season, Yuli has just 26 RBI which only might get him to end the year at 50, and with a .230 average, that doesn’t give much cause for the Astros to say he is our guy. This becomes more magnified when considering he is nowhere close to his 2021 average of .319. With that said, the Astros need to look at the following trade targets ahead of the deadline.
‘Josh Bell has been traded to the Astros’ has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? The 29-year-old has a great combination of experience and production that could greatly bolster the Astros’ World Series chances at the trade deadline. Bell is slashing .304/.386/.491 with an OPS of .877. He has also very productive this season, driving in runs on a subpar team, with 12 home runs and 47 RBI. He won’t come cheap, as he is probably the number one trade prospect for teams looking to add a bat, but he would be a 1-year rental unless the Astros’ brass can re-sign him either in November or as a part of the trade. The Astros might have a leg up over the Yankees or other big market teams since Texas is Bell’s home state, as he played his high school ball in Dallas. He would immediately upgrade the Astros offense and should be priority number one with Yordan Alvarez on the mend and Brantley still banged up.
I can’t imagine the Rockies wouldn’t be sellers at the trade deadline at 18 games back from the NL West lead. CJ Cron is another value add and would fill in a prime spot in the Astros lineup, and best of all, he is under contract through 2023. The Rockies’ All-Star first baseman has 20 home runs and 67 RBI this year while slashing .294/.347/.545 and an OPS of .893. Cron won’t be cheap but with a few of the Astros’ prospects peaking this year in AA and AAA, they could put together a package to get an All-Star and add another big threat to the lineup.
The 31-year-old Diamondbacks first baseman has the power numbers that teams will cherish in the postseason. Christian Walker is having himself a great year and could be a solid replacement at first base, especially in the realms of production as he has 21 home runs this season and 43 RBI. Walker is slashing .205/.319/.460 with an OPS of .780 and his highest OPS+ of his career at 120. His 3.0 WAR is a huge improvement from Yuli’s -0.1 as of Friday, and best of all, Walker is only slated to make $2.6 million this season so the Astros could make a quick push to re-sign him for cheaper than the other options listed above.
The Rangers are currently in 3rd place in the American League West and 16.5 games behind the Astros, so if the Rangers believe they still have a shot at the Wild Card then this might all be moot. All that said, along with the fact that the Rangers made multiple moves in the off-season and the Astros are in the same division Lowe, this might be a hands-off situation but let’s look at his sale potential if the Rangers decide to make some moves. Lowe is currently slashing .274/.328/.436 with an OPS of .765, an OPS+ of 118, and is still under pre-arbitration contract status until 2024. Lowe is having the best year of his short four-year career, hitting12 home runs and driving in 38. If Lowe was on a higher performing offense, his RBI total could easily increase and he would add yet another lefty to the lineup, giving the bottom half of the Astros lineup some diversity.
The end goal for any trade deadline deal for the Astros is to get them in a place to win the World Series once again. The top three trade targets would greatly improve the Astros chances in the postseason and give them another hitter in the lineup for opposing pitchers to fear. That added stress on pitchers in the postseason to fear hitters in the 1-7 or 8 spots in the lineup are what drives starters to an early exit, especially when runs are much harder to come by in October and opposing mangers fear having to come from behind. These trade deadline targets will cost the Astros and the likely candidates for trade are Chas McCormick, Jose Siri, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, and several minor league first basemen in the system if the Astros can snag a longer term player. I really like Josh Bell if they can also sign him to a longer deal, but if they can’t get him, then Cron or Walker would also be a huge upgrade with Walker being the cheaper option. Lowe is more of a long shot, but would also be a valuable add.