Wheeling and dealing

Barry Laminack: A way-too-early look at potential trade options for Astros

A.J. Hinch could use some more weapons. Jason Behnken / Getty Images

The Major League Baseball trade deadline is July 31st, and trade talks don’t usually start to gain momentum until after the MLB draft in June, but when you are a baseball dork like me it is never too soon to start talking about potential trades for a team that's in contention and that everyone's excited about (yes, I'm talking about your Houston Astros).

There are some names being floated around on teams that are still in the hunt, but since we don’t know how that’s going to shake out, I tried to pull from teams I think will be out of it come the trade deadline (mostly because they are already out of it).

Those teams are:

Seattle Mariners*

Texas Rangers

Baltimore Orioles

Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox

San Diego Padres

Miami Marlins

Los Angeles Dodgers (I know, surprised me too)

Cincinnati Reds

*losing Cano was a huge blow

Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at the top options for the Astros (from the teams listed above).

LF/DH

There aren’t a lot of sexy names out there for left field, and by “not a lot” I mean NONE. Of course the Astros always have the options of adding a center fielder and moving Springer to right and Reddick to left, or adding a right fielder and moving Reddick to left, but outside of Adam Jones there really aren’t many sexy outfielders that will be on the market this year. And I hate to be the one to bring it up, but put Bryce Harper out of your mind Astros fan, it ain’t happening.

So I turn to the other spot in the order that needs some help...

DH

Nelson Cruz - Seattle Mariners

Contract Status: 2019 Free Agent

Now that the Mariners have lost Robinson Cano for the next 80 games, they should begin the fade I’ve been talking about (and expecting), albeit a little sooner than anticipated. By July the Mariners will be out of it and looking to offload some expiring contracts, Cruz among them.

Cruz brings a big bat with a lot of pop. He’ll strike out, but he’s also a legit deep threat and RBI machine. The 37 year old slugger probably peaked back in 2015 when he hit 44 home runs, drove in 93 runs and slashed .302/.369/.936, but he’d be a half year rental and insurance to try and match run for run with that Yankees lineup.

CLOSERS

It’s no secret that the biggest weakness on this Astros team right now is the bullpen, and two specific areas of need are a dominant closer and a lefty specialist.

Zach Britton - Baltimore Orioles

Contract Status: 2019 Free Agent

Britton has missed the entire year recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but he’s working his way back now and looks to be back on the bump a soon as June. When healthy, he could solve a lot of problems for a lot of teams. The good news is, if he does return in early June, teams like the Astros will have about 6-7 weeks to see how he bounces back. That should be just enough time to decide if they want to make the move for a guy who saved 47 games in 2016. At this point, Britton is a rental, but one that might come a decent price given the injury.

Kelvin Herrera - Kansas City Royals

Contract Status: 2019 Free Agent

Despite having a down 2017, Herrera has top end closer stuff. He’s got a live fastball (97 mph avg) and can hit triple digits on the gun on occasion. Mix in a wipeout slider (83 mph avg) that he gets a ton of strikeouts on and an above average change that he uses almost as much as the slider.

A two-time all star (2015, 2016), he averages right at a strikeout per inning. He reached 26 saves last year, but don’t let those numbers fool you, he’s the real deal.

Brad Hand - San Diego Padres

Contract Status: Signed through 2020 (with a club option in 2021)

Brad Hand in the best closer you’ve never heard of (unless you listen to me gush over him around this time last year). He’s still a name that comes up when trade rumors and the San Diego Padres are discussed.

The upside of Hand is that he has 2+ more years of team control (not including the $10M team option in 2021). And because he’s only been closing games for a short time, he shouldn’t cost as much as Britton or Herrera, but that inexperience is also a risk for clubs (like the Astors) needing a sure thing at the back end of the bully.

Oh, and did I mention he’s a lefty?

BONUS NAME TO WATCH!

Jeurys Familia - New York Mets

Contract: 2019 Free Agent

I know I said I was pulling from a list of teams that are “out of it” but the Mets are already going to have to surpass six teams to earn a wild card spot (including the Nationals) and I don’t see that happening, so that’s why I think it’s worth keeping an eye on Jeurys Familia. He’s had some injury issues in the past, including missing most of 2017 with an arterial blood clot, but when you see back-to- back 43 and 51 save seasons, and a hot start to the 2018 season, you tend to salivate a little. His fastball tops out in the upper 90’s and he’s developed a devastating splitter. He can struggle with command on occasion but for the Astros he would be as sure of a thing as they had in the pen.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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