Astros need to add a top flight pitcher for another title run
Through 90 games of the season and at the All Star break, the Houston Astros are 57-33 with a seven and a half game lead in the AL West. They are currently in second place in the AL playoff race behind the New York Yankees. Under most circumstances, one would say this team is in prime position to make another playoff run. Despite all the injuries to key players (Altuve, Correa, Springer), they've been able to maintain their level of play and a stranglehold on the division lead.
Of all the things teams have done from last season up until now, most have tried to improve areas of weakness or shore up strengths. For example, the Yankees added one of this season's top homerun hitters in Edwin Encarnacion to an already strong lineup. The Astros have made minimal moves (Wade Miley signing) or promotion from within (Yordan Alvarez). Both moves have worked out well, but they aren't enough. Here's a few reasons why I think that way:
Forrest Whitley isn't walking through that door
Long rumored to be called up some time in June to give the team an extra year of control, Whitley is the top pitching prospect the organization has, but a "shoulder fatigue" injury has slowed him down. He started throwing off the mound about a month ago. If he hasn't been called up by now, chances are he's not coming up this year. They'd need to give him a few starts to get acclimated to the big league level before knowing if he can be relied upon in the postseason. That can't happen unless he's called up ASAP.
Justin Verlander's home run problem
When your ace has given up a near career high in homeruns before the All Star break, that's a problem. Verlander recently complained about MLB juicing the balls. While that may be the case, Verlander is still on pace for giving up nearly 50 homers this season. Most of them are early on in the game and of the solo variety. But being down early puts you at such a disadvantage, one that can be hard to overcome. Especially when...
Your best hitter isn't hitting very well
Jose Altuve is currently batting 52 points lower than his career .314 average. His OPS down 35 points from a career .816 average. those numbers have risen up in the last few games before the break and were much worse. Maybe he's still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Or maybe he's pressing knowing he should be performing better. Either way, if your best hitter isn't doing his thing, you'll need others to step up, or the pitching staff to cover offensive deficiencies. While Altuve isn't really pulling his weight, the rest of the lineup is trying to pick up his slack. I still feel this lineup can be hit or miss. Just see their slip ups versus the Pirates and Reds midseason.
Jeff Luhnow values prospects
Teams getting rid of top flight big league talent usually want prospects in return. It's understandable since they know the team trading for said talent is trying to win and won't likely part with any big league roster talent in return. Luhnow values prospects like they're air and/or water. I'm sorry, but I'd give up clean air or fresh water for a period of time if it meant I got closer to a life goal.
Do I have faith that this team can make another playoff run? Yes. Is that faith being tested? Hell yes! Do I think they're a World Series threat? I believe so, but the only way to heighten their chances is to add to the pitching staff with a top flight pitcher. Charlie Pallilo named four pitchers they should go after leading up to the hard trade deadline of July 31. While he lists some interesting pitchers, I believe there are others out there that may be had, but the price will be steep. So what price do you place on possibly winning another World Series? Would you be willing to part with a top prospect or two? Or are you willing to stand pat?