OK, let’s not panic. Please. The trade deadline isn’t until July 31, and the Houston Astros are cruising along with an 8-game lead in the AL West, still arguably the best team in the majors.
However, if the Astros are going to get over the Yankees hump (you remember the Yankees, the team that took 3 of 4 from them a couple of weeks back?), then it is time to think about pitching. It will be a team like the Yankees to stand in the Astros’ way of reaching the World Series.
Houston needs to bolster its pitching, considering they have a starting order that goes only about three deep in reliability, and a bullpen that is less than stable when you get past one or two.
And can somebody find me a lefty? Outside of Wade Miley, the Astros have a left handed starter who has been shelled in his last two starts (Framber Valdez), and a couple of southpaw relievers (Cionel Perez and Reymin Guduan) who have 13 innings of work between them.
So the options seem clear, but not without some other considerations, namely what the Astros pitching situation is with what they have now.
First off, will Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh be in physical shape at the end of September? The two haven’t been up to par because of injuries so far.
Secondly, can the Astros depend on Jose Urquidy? He looked OK through 81 pitches in 3 2/3 innings in his debut Tuesday, yielding 2 runs, striking out 4 and walking 1 in a no-decision start. But whether he can be counted on for a heavier load is in doubt.
Then, can the Astros count on any more help from the minor leagues? Forrest Whitley is down there and beginning to pitch again after some injury setbacks in Round Rock. If ever he was needed to live up to the expectations the organization had when they drafted him in 2016, it is now.
There’s also 21-year-old Willy Collado, who has zoomed through the organization’s ranks with impressive relief appearances since he was signed in 2016. But is he ready?
Who Should Astros Get?
With all of that in mind, we’ll take a look at four pitchers who would work well, if the Astros act before the trade deadline.
First of all, the Astros look like they’re on the right track by showing interest in lefty starter Matthew Boyd of the Detroit Tigers. He carries a so-so 3.87 ERA with a good strikeout-walk ratio of roughly 11 to 2 per nine innings. He’s also on a bargain contract of $2.6 million.
Trouble is, the Tigers want outfielder Kyle Tucker, the outfielder who was Houston’s No. 5 draft pick in 2015 and now resides at Round Rock. The Astros are reluctant to make that deal.
I tend to like Will Smith, the left-handed reliever with the San Francisco Giants. He is probably the best relief pitcher who has a decent price tag up for grabs. He has a 2.19 ERA over 34 innings and a 14-2 KO/walk ratio per nine, with 22 saves to his credit. Plus, his $4.2 million contract isn’t too much to take on.
Kirby Yates is a journeyman reliever who has really become a force for the San Diego Padres. His 27 saves, 1.27 ERA and 14-2 KO/walk ratio this season are hard to argue with. He may be a rental, though, because he’ll be asking for big money next year.
Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays is a name Astros fans may remember. He’s the starter the Astros were after before ultimately signing Justin Verlander. His stats are not hugely impressive this season – 3.18 ERA, 81 KOs, 35 BB. And he’ll come at a high price, up to $13 million next year, which would crowd the Astros limit before luxury tax.
There are plenty of others out there, including Madison Bumgarner, who has slumped off this year, but might be a great rental for the post season, going by past performances.
The way the Astros are banging the ball around the park makes me think a position player isn’t the way to go before July 31, unless an injury at a key position pops up.
But no matter what the team does, they will be competitive right on through October, and well worth tickets to Astros games.