MOVES ARE NOT A NECESSITY, BUT COULD REALLY HELP THE TEAM PUSH FOR ANOTHER TITLE

Luhnow says Astros looking for a starter and a catcher; what about a reliever?

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Jeff Luhnow met the media Monday before the start of the Astros home game with the hard-charging Oakland A's and told everyone within earshot that the team would like to add a starting pitcher and a catcher before the trade deadline at the end of the month. With all the injuries to the starting pitchers that had given Luhnow and AJ Hinch the gluttony of riches a year ago of so many to pitchers to chose from, it has become evident that help is needed to fill out the rotation before they hit the stretch run towards the playoffs. Justin Verlander, Wade Miley, and Gerrit Cole are firmly entrenched at the top of the staff, but help is needed to replace the injured Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock, as well as the one-time starter Collin McHugh who is now back in the bullpen. The young arms on the farm system were given a chance, but they cannot be counted on for consistency and quality starts when the playoffs roll around and any slip up is magnified and could be the difference between advancing and being sent home. With all the big named starting pitchers on the market this year, there are plenty of options and varying contract terms out there to chose from as Luhnow attempts to make a deal.

Adding a catcher makes sense

After getting off to a red-hot start and close consideration for a spot on the All-Star team, catcher Robinson Chirinos has cooled off at the plate and needs to catch a few days off behind the plate to assure he is fresh for the playoffs. He has been better than expected and has the total trust and confidence of the pitching staff, but the team does not want him catching 3 games in a row and Max Stassi has not been able to step up and carry the torch when called on this season, battling through injuries and inconsistencies. Luhnow was hot after ex-Astro Martim Maldanado before the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Royals a few weeks back. That has left Luhnow and his staff to scour the market and see who else is out there, available and not too expensive to obtain. The goal is to save the top prospects and only consider a move for one of them if it is for a front line starter that has some level of remaining team control. Trading for a catcher would not seem to be an option for the likes of Kyle Tucker, Forrest Whitley or any other top prospect in the Houston system. Ideally, the team would prefer to part with a younger player down on the farm or a more experienced player with some major league experience that isn't in their plans for this season or in the short term.

You can't have too many armsĀ 

The newest concern for the team seems to be in the bullpen where the arms are starting to run thin with injuries and extended use and AJ Hinch getting so concerned that he actually gave Ryan Pressly a full series off against the Rangers. Josh James was the latest casualty after he was taken out of the game Sunday with concerns of arm fatigue, velocity issues and a fear that there may be more to the diagnosis than just too many appearances recently. As long as Luhnow and his staff have time before the deadline, why not explore the options out there to add another arm to the mix in the bullpen? Hinch does not have the plethora of options he once had not too long ago when he walks to the mound to get one of his starters. Hector Rondon has really struggled of late and has been susceptible to the long ball while giving up 9 earned runs in his last 5.2 innings pitched. Chris Devinsky is a shell of his All-Star season of a few years ago and Will Harris has had a rough month of July after a steady start to the season. McHugh has been injured most of the year and Joe Smith just rejoined the team earlier this month after being out the entire year after Achilles surgery. The younger guys like James and Framber Valdez have been very inconsistent and not what the organization had hoped for heading into the season. I say all of this to say that Luhnow and his staff should leave no stone unturned and try to add another arm or two to the pen as long as they are out there and active in the trade market. The hope would be to find a seller that is looking to rebuild and would only require a low-level prospect or two to get a deal done. At the end of the day, a division title is not the end goal for this team and anything short of another World Series appearance would be viewed by most observers as a disappointment. Jeff Luhnow it's time for you to play the role of Monty Hall and get on the phone to find teams willing and able to trade. Let's make a deal, or two or maybe even three so that this team can finish what it started and write some more history for H-Town and Astros fans everywhere!

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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