Lance McCullers Jr. injury update gives Astros clear direction at MLB trade deadline

The Astros can't pin their hopes on their injured starters.
Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros
Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros / Bob Levey/GettyImages

The Houston Astros have been without Lance McCullers Jr. since the 2024 season began. The right-hander underwent season-ending surgery last June to repair the flexor tendon and remove a bone spur from his elbow. McCullers has yet to throw a pitch in a major league game since 2022.

On Tuesday, McCullers suffered another setback and has been shut down once again. The Astros had hopes of both McCullers and Luis Garcia returning to the roster later this summer to help bolster the team's injury-plagued starting rotation.

But those hopes were all but dashed, and there are real questions as to whether or not McCullers will even return to the Houston rotation at all this season. Even if the 30-year-old is able to make it back, there's no way he can be counted on. That makes the Astros' impending trade deadline decisions incredibly straightforward — it's time to go out and trade for a starter.

Lance McCullers Jr. injury update makes Astros clear buyers at MLB trade deadline

Not only is McCullers' injury update troubling, but the Astros are also without Justin Verlander. Houston still does not have a timetable for the former Cy Young Award winner's return after Verlander was sidelined with a neck issue.

Starting pitching is always a popular target among contending teams at the deadline, and Houston should join that long line of organizations who'll be looking to make an upgrade. How big of a name might the Astros target? That remains to be seen. Pitchers like Tyler Anderson, Erick Fedde, and Jack Flaherty are all likely to be available before the July 30 deadline, and will all cost a bit more in this seller's market than you're probably expecting.

At the moment, the Astros are expecting to have Jake Bloss back in the rotation later this week, but resting one's hopes on a rookie is not the type of approach that will give Astros fans much confidence.

The Astros have lost a number of starters to injury this season, and yet they've weathered the storm. But in order to contend with the likes of the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Guardians, and Boston Red Sox, Houston is going to need to add another starter in the coming weeks.

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