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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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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