With Benintendi off the market, here are 3 trade targets in Astros sights

This Astros have until August 2 to make a move. Composite image by Brandon Strange

With Major League Baseball’s trade deadline less than a week away, the Astros once again find themselves in playoff contention and will look to add pivotal pieces to make another World Series run.

On paper it seems as though Houston already has a complete team, but there is always room for improvement.

Sure, the Astros could add a few bullpen pieces and call it a day, similar to last season, but this year feels different. Houston has a winning record against arguably the two best teams in the league (4-0 against the Mets and 5-2 against the Yankees) and owns the second-best record in baseball.

Needless to say, this season is a World Series or bust year so it would behoove the club to make a blockbuster type trade to ensure their continued dominance over the rest of Major League Baseball.

The Astros have already been attached to a couple of big name players and look to be aggressive before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Josh Bell

One trade candidate that makes sense for the Astros is Washington Nationals’ first baseman Josh Bell.

Sure Houston already has last year's batting champion at first base, but Yuli Guriel is having a down year by his standards. The 38-year-old is hitting a career low (excluding the 2020 partial season) .234/.286/.383. He has improved over the last month, but isn’t nearly as effective at the plate as he was in previous seasons.

Bell on the other hand is hitting .304/.388/.494 on a last place Nationals team and could be a potential upgrade compared to Gurriel.

The 29-year-old might just be a rental player as he is a free agent at the end of this season, so it shouldn’t cost the Astros too much in prospects for a trade to occur.

The former All-Star wouldn't outright replace, Gurriel, but could be used in a platoon role at first base.

Another way to look at Bell coming to Houston would be he could split time at first base and be a designated hitter to alleviate stress for both Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez.

Bell’s bat would be a welcome addition to the Astros lineup, and surely Dusty Baker could find a way for both Gurriel and Bell to split time at first base.

Willson Contreras

One player who has been on the mind of every Astros front office executive for a while now is Chicago Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras.

Similar to the aforementioned Gurriel dilemma, Houston already has an everyday starting catcher in Martin Maldonado that everyone in the clubhouse seems to like.

The issue with the 35-year-old is an obvious one, he is not a good hitter and neither are the Astros' other catchers.

Maldonado’s .237 on-base percentage is the fifth-lowest mark among 260 hitters with 200+ plate appearances on the season.

The Astros have also been without Jason Castro for almost a month now, with no update on the severity of his knee injury.

Houston’s current backup catcher Korey Lee has shown flashes of success at the plate, but is still developing and may need more time before he is ready to become the club's everyday starting catcher.

Contreras on the other hand has always been an offense-first catcher, something the Astros have not had since the days of Evan Gattis and Brian McCann.

Assuming the Astros were to deal for the 3x All-Star, he could slot into a backup catcher/ designated hitter role. That way the pitchers could still work with Maldonado and the team can use Contreras off the bench in late game pitch hit situations or to give Maldy the day off occasionally.

Similarly to the Josh Bell scenario, trading for the 2022 All-Star starting catcher shouldn’t cost much, as he can walk at the end of the season via free agency. That’s not to say the Cubs won’t ask a lot for one of the last remaining core players from their 2016 World Series championship team, though.

The Astros might have to give up some better prospects for Contreras’ services, but it would be worth it to insure their catching position is in good hands.

Luis Castillo

One of the best elements of this Astros team has been their starting pitching. Justin Verlander is having another Cy Young caliber season coming off Tommy John sugary and Framber Valdez made his first All-Star team this year. Other pitchers such as Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier are having good seasons as well.

With Jake Odorizzi as the sixth man in this rotation and Lance McCullers Jr currently undergoing a rehab assignment, it’s safe to say the Astros don’t need anymore starting pitching, right?

Yes, but Houston could make an exception for another potential ace in their rotation.

Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Luis Castillo has a 2.77 ERA and 82 strikeouts this season despite pitching in a hitter-friendly home ballpark.

The 29-year-old could fit right in to this rotation, and the Astros could move someone such as Odorizzi or Garcia and prospects to make room for the Reds' ace.

Castillo has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency in 2024, so the extra year of control may be enticing for Astros if they were to trade for him.

Although not a necessity, having another 2022 All-Star on this already loaded pitching staff would further solidify the Astros’ rotation as the best in baseball.

Houston may have one of the best teams as it currently stands, but adding a player like Bell, Contreras or Castillo could be just what the Astros need to make it back and potentially win the World Series.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Coogs play Miami on Friday night. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Number one seed University of Houston is favored by 7.5 points over No. 5 Miami, and No. 2 University of Texas is favored by 4 over No. 3 Xavier Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Kansas City.

Talk about opening acts. If both UH and UT win, they’ll meet Sunday in a good ol’ WWE-style Texas death match for a berth in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. Thank you, Mr. Schedule Maker.

How much do you think Cougar fans would love for UH to get their hands on the Longhorns with so much at stake?

For one example, let’s go back to the future, Oct. 21, 2023, when Big 12 rivals UH and UT meet in football at TDECU Stadium on the Houston campus. The game already is a lock sellout with tickets in the upper deck commanding $141 per ticket on the secondary market. It will be UH’s first year in the big boy Big 12 and UT’s last go-around before heading to the SEC.

One last opportunity for lasting bragging rights.

That’s for a UH football game. At home. Where the Cougars typically have trouble packing half the house. For example, the Cougars will be hosting the Sam Houston Bearkats at TDECU Stadium a month earlier. Tickets for that game, the same exact seat going for $141 against UT, can be had right now … $17.

Yeah, there’s something special about UH getting the opportunity to face UT. In anything. Anywhere. And it’s been a long time since the two teams, once co-members of the Southwest Conference together, have met on the basketball court. A full decade, in fact. The last time they played was March 20, 2013 with the Cougars prevailing 73-72 in something called the College Basketball Invitational. The UH coach was James Dickey. UT was coached by Rick Barnes. Joe Young led the Cougars with 18 points. The Horns’ leading scorer was Julien Lewis with 28. UH finished that season with a 20-13 record. UT limped home at 16-18.

That was then, this is now. The UH-Miami game will air at 6:10 p.m. Friday on CBS with UH grad Jim Nantz calling the play-by-play. The game will alsO stream on Hulu +++. ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Cougars a 90 percent chance of winning. We’ll take it.

The UT-Xavier game will follow at 8:45 p.m. on CBS. The Horns have a 70 percent chance of beating the Musketeers. If both chalks come through, they’ll meet Sunday afternoon with the game on CBS.

The Cougars have made six Final Four appearances: 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2021. The Horns have made three Final Fours, the last time two decades ago.

Here’s the only sure bet if UH and UT meet Sunday - get to your sports bar early if you want a seat. This could be memorable.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome