Early-deadline deals could reveal Astros' potential trade partner for pitching

The Rays and Astros may match up well at the MLB trade deadline.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Zach Eflin
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Zach Eflin / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers got the party started early. The two teams came together recently and worked out a trade that sent Aaron Civale to southeast Wisconsin in exchange for infielder Gregory Barrios heading to the Florida Gulf Coast.

The Rays made another trade on Tuesday that sent former Houston Astros reliever Phil Maton to the New York Mets in exchange for cash considerations. Tampa Bay would seem to be selling off some of their assets and could be a prime trade partner for Houston.

When looking over the Rays' roster, there's one player who could be a nice fit for the Astros' biggest need — starting pitching. Right-hander Zach Eflin could help to bolster Houston's rotation following the season-ending losses of Christian Javier and Jose Urquidy.

Could the Astros trade for Rays' RHP Zach Eflin?

The Astros rotation is a certified mess. Not only are Javier and Urquidy out for the rest of the 2024 season, but a recent injury update on Lance McCullers Jr. doesn't paint a very promising picture. The right-hander had a setback during his rehab, and his availability for the second-half of the season is now in doubt. The Astros are also without Justin Verlander, who's still recovering from a neck injury.

Even if pitchers like Verlander. McCullers, and Luis Garcia eventually return from the IL, this season has been a classic illustration of that age-old saying, "You can never have enough pitching." That's where a player like Eflin comes in.

The 30-year-old isn't having a stellar season, but Eflin led the league in wins a year ago while also posting a 3.50 ERA. The right-hander logged 31 starts in 2023, totaling 177 innings of work.

Eflin does two things very well — he keeps the bases clear of free runners, and gets hitters to chase pitches outside the strike zone. There's not a lot of swing and miss in Eflin's game overall, but his expected ERA is among the top 25% in the game and has been the past three seasons.

Astros fans are bound to hear a number of starters' names in the coming weeks as GM Dana Brown and the Houston front office look to add at least one pitcher to the mix. Working in Eflin's favor is the fact that he's more than a rental. The Rays' hurler is under contract through next season after signing a three-year deal prior to 2023.

But if Houston wants to work out a trade for Eflin, they may want work fast. It appears as if the Rays want to make their trade decisions before the July 30 deadline.

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