WHEELING AND DEALING

Patrick Creighton: 5 potential Astros trade targets

Josh Donaldson might add pop as a DH. Wikipedia

Now that the calendar has turned to June, it’s officially trade watch season.  While the Mariners and Rays completed an early deal, this is usually when the speculation starts to get hot and heavy.

While the Astros starting pitching has been tremendous, the bullpen has had its struggles and some spots in the order (DH/LF) have regressed and are not producing.

In a season where the Yankees and Red Sox appear to have improved significantly, the Astros will likely seek some upgrades as the deadline approaches.  Here are five potential trade targets:

Kelvin Herrera  CL Royals

This guy should be front and center at the top of the list.  Herrera has become an elite closer in MLB, and the lowly Royals will find him a luxury they cannot afford next season.

Herrera is making just under $8M and will be a free agent at season’s end.  The Royals are in full rebuild, and the Astros are one of the teams in baseball that are loaded with minor league talent to help Kansas City in their process.  The Royals are a bad organization from top to bottom, and have what is universally considered to be the worst farm system in baseball.

In 2018, Herrera is 1-1 with 13 saves.  In 22.2 IP, he has a 0.79 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and 19Ks.  He has not walked a batter all season. Herrera would bring a dominating presence to the back of the pen.

Acquiring him would also hurt the Indians, who are having their own bullpen woes as well.

Jeurys Familia   CL Mets

Familia should be the backup plan if Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is unable or unwilling to meet what will likely be a sky high price for Herrera.

After a down season in 2017, Familia has regained his form, increasing strikeouts and decreasing walks.  Familia is used to a heavy workload (43 Sv in 2015, 51 Sv in 2016), has postseason experience, and is also a free agent at season’s end.  Familia is making just under $8M in 2018.

As the Mets’ injuries continue to pile up, so do their losses, and Familia will definitely be on the trade block.

In 2018, Familia is 2-3 with 14 saves.  In 29 IP, he has a 2.48 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 33/9 K/BB ratio.   He would take over as the Astros closer, and steady the back of the pen.  Expect him to find some rejuvenation being back on a contender in a walk year as well.  

Josh Donaldson   3B/DH Blue Jays

The 2015 MVP has been beset by shoulder and calf injuries this season but will have plenty of time to show he is healthy before the deadline.

The “Bringer of Rain” is a legit power bat that is capable of playing both corner infield spots and has experience as a DH. Donaldson had 33 HR and 78 RBI in only 113 games a season ago while slashing .270/.385/.559.

Donaldson will be the Jays biggest trade chip at the deadline, and he would inject a bolt of power into the Astros’  “Jekyll & Hyde” offense.

While currently on the DL, Donaldson is hitting .234/.333/.423 this season in 36 games, with 5 HR and 16 RBI.  His value will be more heavily determined on his health and how he hits when he returns from DL. He is making $23M in the final year of his contract.

Donaldson’s shoulder woes this season have impacted his throwing, and are likely to help drive down the cost to acquire him, as he’s best served DHing this season.

Mike Moustakas   3B/DH Royals

“Moose” found no takers on the market for his services coming off a 38 HR season.  So far in 2018, Moustakas has proven that power spike was not an anomaly, as he already has 12 HR and 40 RBI in 239 AB.

Moustakas is also on a team friendly 1 year/$6.5M deal with a mutual option for $15M in 2019 (it has a super team friendly $1M buyout).

The Royals are guaranteed to be sellers and Moose would be an instant upgrade at DH.  He also brings balance to the lineup as a left handed hitter.

Zach Britton  CL Orioles

The Astros nearly pulled the trigger for Britton at the non-waiver deadline last season before Orioles ownership nixed the deal at the last second.  

The 30 year old lefty has been one of the better closers in baseball since 2014, but injuries have beset him the past 2 seasons.

Currently Britton is on the DL after having surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles.  He is expected to be activated off the DL June 15.

So far Brit isn’t pitching back-to-back days on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk, but he is expected to do so this weekend.

If he can prove healthy and able to regain his prior All-Star form, he could be the Astros guy at a cheaper cost than either Herrera or Familia.

In 2016 (his last fully healthy season), Britton was 2-1 with an AL leading 47 saves.  In 67 IP, he had a 0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and a strong 74/18 K/BB ratio. He is in the final year of a deal that will pay him $12M.

Patrick Creighton hosts “Late Hits” weeknights 7-9p on ESPN 97.5 Houston, and “Straight Heat” weeknights 9p-12a CT on SB Nation Radio & SportsMap 94.1 Houston.   Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1

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It's all about Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Texans moved to 3-7 following their 27-20 win over the Patriots. They are still without a permanent head coach and general manager. There lies the problem, and those problems will be settled this upcoming offseason. The new general manager and head coach will steer this franchise in the direction it needs to go in. Undoubtedly, Deshaun Watson will be at the forefront of what they do. How can he not be? You don't take a job like this with a quarterback like him and not consider him the centerpiece. What else would make one take either of those jobs? The salary cap hell the team is facing? The lack of draft picks coming off a terrible year? The faith ownership has placed in the NFL's version of Littlefinger?

Watson is the lone attraction to the flaming dumpster fire Cal McNair allowed to occur on his watch. If he's not careful, it could get worse and he'll find it hard to recover from. Watson signed an extension that'll keep him in Houston for another four years. He'll still be in his prime (barring any serious, career-threatening injury), and be eligible to hit the market as a free agent before he turns 30. So who do the Texans hire as head coach that can get the most out of Watson? Who can convince him to stay and re-sign after his extension is up?

The main cast of characters will most likely take better jobs. The Jets job is more attractive because of the cap space and draft picks. If the Falcons job opens up, so is it because of Matt Ryan and that offense. What coach/coaches would be interested in taking on this job that would be viable candidates given that the best of the best would take other jobs? Jayson Braddock and I tackled this topic not too long ago on Late Hits. Here are a few guys off the beaten path we felt were contenders:

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Daboll is a guy who, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, is openly campaigning for this job. The work he's done with Josh Allen has been remarkable. Allen has gone from a raw prospect with all the physical tools to an MVP candidate. Who wouldn't want a guy like that in Watson's ear guiding him over the foreseeable future?

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman has done wonders for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson. He helped Kaepernick reach a Super Bowl with the 49ers and turned Jackson into last season's league MVP. Given his history with athletic quarterbacks, he should be a natural fit and given full consideration.

Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator: Here's where it gets interesting. Elliott has been the OC (or co-OC) at Clemson since 2015. He has an established relationship with Watson and a proven track record as a coordinator of high-powered offenses in college. He's the type of hire that won't cost as much as some big names will, but might be able to provide the same spark.

Note that all three of these guys are offensive coaches. I fully understand that the defense is an issue and needs help desperately. I also understand that the previous two coaches were offensive guys as well. But Watson is your franchise quarterback and the most attractive piece in a pile of flaming dung that resides on Kirby. If anyone is going to take this job, it'll be because of number four. I know these aren't the sexy names most folks would want to hear, but these names are more realistic as candidates. None of them has head coaching experience. That fact cheapens their price tag and lends itself to them being long shots. A lot of this depends on the general manager hire. We'll get into that in another articel. For right now, dwell on this and let me know what you think.

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