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.

Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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