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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The Texans didn't have an answer for Derrick Henry. Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Romeo Crennel made a valorous call that might have costed the Houston Texans from winning their second consecutive game on Sunday. Up by seven with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, Crennel decided to call a two-point conversion following Deshaun Watson's one-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

During the two-point conversion, Watson had a look at an open Randall Cobb, but Titans' defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons got a hand on the ball to deflect the pass. The failed conversion allowed the Titans to take a 42-36 victory over the Texans inside Nissan Stadium. Tennessee scored 13 unanswered points, which included a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown to send the game into overtime.

"I think I would do it again," Crennel said during his media availability on Monday. "You are on the road against a divisional opponent who is undefeated, and if you could get that two-point conversion — you shut the door on them. We had a guy open, but unfortunately, the ball got tipped and we did not make it. I would do it again because it was a good choice."

The decision to not kick the field goal caused somewhat of an uproar, but it is understandable why Crennel made the call. Crennel had faith in Watson to put the Texans in a position to close the game, similar to his 4th-and-4 call during last week's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the end, Crennel's risky decisions could stem from the lack of faith he has in the Texans' depleted defense.

Houston's defense hit an all-time low against the Titans. They gave up a franchise-worst 601 total yards — with Derrick Henry accounting for 212 yards on 22 carries. But despite their struggles against the run, the Texans' secondary were just as faulty. They gave up a total of 338 yards through the air and allowed Tannehill to go 8-for-9 down the field during the Titans' final drive of regulation.

Had Houston's defense made a stop during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Texans could have ended the game 2-0 under their interim head coach.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the two points — I felt like that would have put the game out of reach for them," Crennel said. "If we had gotten it, we would have been in much better shape. But we did not get it. We did not perform well in overtime, and they [Titans] won the game."

Following Sunday's heartbreaking loss, Texans safety Justin Reid said it best, "Had we converted on the two-point conversion, this would be a totally different conversation. So it is what it is."

Up next, the 1-5 Texans will look to bounce back from defeat against the 4-1 Green Bay Packers, inside NRG Stadium on Sunday. Kick-off is at 12:00 PM CT.

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