Is Houston the team to beat even if they don't make a move at the trade deadline?

What if the Astros stand pat at the deadline?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros fans, are you OK with the team not making a move before the only trade deadline in Major League Baseball this season? Especially after the rumors have been hot and heavy that the team was looking to add a starting pitcher or two to the roster for depth and security as they head towards the postseason. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have been open and active in discussions with teams around the league, as well as the media in admitting they would like to address the bullpen and add another catcher as well as at least one front line starting pitcher. Luhnow has been very hesitant to part with one if not both of his top prospects in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker. In a market that has been less than stellar in terms of the quality of pitchers available and the number of teams willing to participate in trade discussions. So what if the deadline comes and goes and in passing your Astros fail to add another front line hurler to the rotation? Will you be disappointed? Frustrated? Will you still believe in this team and its chances to win a World Series? Although I have been lobbying for weeks that the team needs to go out and make a move for an arm, based on what I have seen lately around the American League, I still believe the Astros can get to the fall classic even if they don't make a move.

Yuli Gurriel Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The reason I still have so much confidence in this Houston team is actually two-fold and it starts with how good this team has been playing and how many games they continue to win even as they fight through the last few lingering injury issues they have been forced to deal with for the last few months. Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve have snapped out of early-season struggles at the plate to once again putting up big numbers and high levels of production at the plate. George Springer returned from a lingering hamstring issue to pick up where he left off putting up all-star numbers and Aledmys Diaz and Carlos Correa are finally back from their injuries to take their rightful place in the lineup and batting order. Rookie Yordan Alvarez has been a huge boost to the middle of the order and provided a much-needed power surge, while Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley have provided reliable, steady and strong starting pitching at the front of the rotation. As much as the bullpen has had a few slip-ups lately, overall the numbers for the season are good as they rank as one of the better bullpens in baseball. At the time of this article being published, Houston had the best record in the American League and was in a great position to compete for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if the team fails in attempts to add depth and improve the roster, there is no reason to believe that they don't have enough to make a run at another title.

Yankees Aaron Judge Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Getty Images / Composite by Brandon Strange

The other reason I believe the Astros are going to be OK even if they are unable to make a move before the trade deadline is the performance of the other teams in the American League that are thought to be contenders for the league championship. After a hot start, the Minnesota Twins have cooled off and are now in a dog fight with the Cleveland Indians down the stretch to see who will win the A.L. Central. In the East, the Yankees have gone from favorites to win the World Series to a team that doesn't have enough offense to cover for a less than stellar starting rotation. If New York doesn't make a move for a starting pitcher, they could be in real trouble heading into the postseason. As potent and powerful as their lineup has been all season and with all the injuries they have overcome, it appears that Brian Cashman has work to do if the Bronx Bombers are going to compete with Houston and others for American League supremacy. The reigning World Series Champion Red Sox have been disappointing all year and their lack of quality pitching continues to be at the heart of all the teams' struggles. If it all comes down to the Astros, Twins, and Yankees, I like Houston's chances assuming all three teams stay status quo. If they don't, I still believe the Astros will be there in the end, fighting for their second title in three years.

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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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