2 Teams Are Holding Fire Sales. Who Should the Astros Take?

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CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 15: Relief pitcher Andrew Chafin #37 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on July 15, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JULY 15: Relief pitcher Andrew Chafin #37 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on July 15, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Tigers: Gregory Soto and Andrew Chafin

The Astros’ most pressing need at this trade deadline is offense, namely at first base, left field, and catcher. While they continue to express their happiness with Martin Maldonado at catcher for what he provides in other facets of the game, it would be nice if the Tigers had a promising bat for them to trade for. The thing is, their offense has been a different kind of non-existent. Not a single one of their regulars has an OPS+ over 100. A 39-year-old Miguel Cabrera has been their most productive hitter. Their leader in rWAR, Eric Haase, is their backup catcher.

Despite all those egregious tidbits, they somehow have one of the best bullpens in baseball at the exact same time. Relief pitching is more of a secondary item on the Astros’ deadline wish list, and the Tigers have it in bunches. Only the Astros, Yankees, and Orioles have a better bullpen ERA than Detroit’s 3.14, and only the Braves and Yankees have a better FIP. Tigers relievers have pitched to a 0.53 HR/9, better than anyone else in baseball.

Houston already has an elite bullpen, but all their top weapons throw from the right side. Detroit has 2 left-handed relievers that are sure to get asked about a ton: Gregory Soto and Andrew Chafin. Soto is their closer, and he pitched in the all-star game in L.A. He has a devastating 98-mph fastball with a high spin rate to boot. Through 34 appearances, he has 18 saves, a 2.56 ERA, and a 3.41 FIP. He’s 27 years old and won’t hit free agency until the end of the 2025 season. The one issue is that when he gets hit, he gets rocked: both his hard hit rate and average exit velocity against are in the bottom 15% of pitchers this season.

Chafin would be far cheaper to acquire since he’s older, about to hit free agency, and doesn’t pitch in as many high-leverage situations. The veteran has pitched extremely well amidst all the disappointment surrounding him in Detroit this year, with a 2.64 ERA, 2.21 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP in 36 appearances. Unlike Soto, walks and hard contact aren’t a problem with Chafin: his 2.6 BB/9 easily trumps Soto’s 4.3. If the Astros can get him, it would be the second straight year that Chafin gets dealt to an AL West buyer, as the Cubs sent him to Oakland at 2021’s deadline.

A Gregory Soto trade wouldn’t and shouldn’t push Ryan Pressly out of the closer’s role; Soto would likely become a middle-innings reliever if acquired. Meanwhile, Chafin would be more of a rental, but he has arguably been better this season. Getting ether of these two pitchers would help diversify an impressive but righty-heavy bullpen.

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