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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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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