Six Trade Deadline Targets For The Astros
After a great June, the Astros find themselves with another opportunity to make the playoffs this season. They are currently 4.5 games back in the division and 1 game back in the wild card. As the August 1st trade deadline approaches, teams are going to look for ways to improve while trying not to mortgage too much of their future. For the Astros, I am pretty content with what their current roster looks like and I am not sure what Jeff Luhnow’s thoughts are right now in terms of trades, but these are five players that I would love to see them go after to improve the club for the stretch. Please note that I hate rental players, so these five players would also be under team control for a few more years beyond this season.
Will Smith, LHP – Tony Sipp is a nice option for AJ Hinch, but as the only lefty in the bullpen, he rarely gets a break. Unfortunately, it has shown this season as he has not been the same dominant player he was last year. Enter Will Smith. I am not saying replace Sipp, but give Hinch another lefty option out of the bullpen and Will Smith is probably the best lefty available with the exception of a couple of Yankees. Smith this year has a 2.12 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 15 K’s in 17 innings this year. He had knee injury early in the season otherwise he would likely be the closer for the Brewers. He also will not reach free agency until 2020 so he will be in the mix for a couple of years. Regardless, Smith is the type of bullpen option that could make an already really good bullpen great.
Jonathan Lucroy, C – Much like Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers last year, one of the most attractive aspects of Lucroy is that he is not a rental player. He has a very team friendly contract right now of only $4 million this year and a $5.25 million team option for next year. The only problem with solid players on team friendly contracts is that it drives the price up for those type of players. The Astros would probably have to give up significant trade chips and the Brewers’ GM, David Stearns, knows the Astros prospects just as well as about anyone having previously been the Astros’ assistant GM. Would we give up Alex Bregman to get him? No, but we would have to give up something significant. The advantage of having Lucroy, though, is this year he could split time behind the dish with Jason Castro and fill in at first or DH when he wasn’t catching. Then, next season after Castro is gone, he would become our full time catcher. Lucroy gives a nice blend of power (12 HR’s) and contact (.303 AVG, .360 OBP), something that would fit nicely into the middle of the Astros order.
Chris Archer, RHP – Ok, I will be the first one to admit that Chris Archer has not pitched very well this year (3-13, 4.68 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). However, this is where I look at his entire body of work, not just one season. In the last three years he has never had an ERA higher than 3.33 and is a combined 31-29. This season his batting average against is a little higher than previous years at .255 (compared to .220 last year). Even his strikeout to walk ration for the year is pretty good at 136 k’s to 49 walks. When he is pitching well, he is truly a top of the rotation guy. I would love to see a top of the rotation of Archer, Keuchel, McCullers in the playoffs. He will not be cheap. The Rays are likely to ask for top prospects in return. While I don’t think Luhnow would be willing to include Alex Bregman, someone like AJ Reed and/or Francis Martes may have to be dealt to bring him in. One advantage with Archer is he would be controlled on a very team friendly deal. He is signed through 2019, with 2 years of club options in 2020 and 2021. Even in 2021, his age 32 season, Archer would only cost the Astros $11 million.
Matt Moore, LHP – I am definitely a sucker for lefthanded pitchers. Matt Moore has been pretty average over the first half of the season (5-7 record, 4.33 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 98 K’s vs. 34 BB). He is capable of showing dominant stuff, though, and is controllable at a relatively cheap cost over the next few years. Like others on the list, he will not be a free agent until 2020 due to a series of cheap club options. To me, you can either plug him into the starting rotation or use him as another lefty out of the pen for the rest of this season with the mindset that he moves right into the rotation next year. Regardless, he is a nice upside play that would come at a much cheaper cost than Chris Archer.
Fernando Abad, LHP – A former Astro, Abad would be another option as a left handed specialist that could ease some of the burden off of Tony Sipp. He currently has a 2.73 ERA in 35 games. More importantly, filling that lefty specialist role, he is only allowing lefties to hit .163 against him. With the Twins having just fired their longtime GM, Terry Ryan, it will be interesting what the interim GM will do, but Abad could be an interesting name that probably would not cost the Astros as much in prospects as Will Smith.
A Sixth Longshot
Chris Sale, LHP – Of all the possible trade targets this year, Chris Sale would be the only one that I would be willing to consider trading Alex Bregman for. Chances are it is very unlikely that the Chicago White Sox trade their ace lefty, but if the Astros were to be bold and offer Bregman, it might just get a conversation started. With Dallas Keuchel not pitching like the Cy Young pitcher from last year (although he has pitched better as of late), this would truly give the Astros an ace at the top of the rotation. I can only dream about entering the playoffs with a rotation of Sale, McCullers (to split the lefties) and Keuchel. This year Chris Sale is currently 14-3 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 123 k’s vs. only 26 walks. Sale is also controlled for a few more years as his contract includes two reasonable team options that would keep him from hitting free agency until 2020. Like I indicated, it is a long shot, but a very interesting one if the White Sox continue to fall from contention.
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