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Astros rumors: Houston looking to upgrade starting pitching

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The Astros look to be buyers as the summer wears on, with starting pitching at the top of their wishlist.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With a seven-game lead in the American League West, Astros fans finally have something to cheer about. The Houston Astros are in first place.

Getting off to this great start has the Houston front office setting their eyes on the summer trade market with starting pitching at the top of their list, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

"(The early success) makes it more likely that we’re going to be making moves to have an immediate payback and potentially even moves that come at a cost long term," Luhnow said. "The more we feel like we’ve got a chance to be relevant all summer and potentially be relevant in October, the more we can be focused on what we can do to bolster this team.

Houston fans have waited since 2005 for a team to return to the playoffs and with this hot start, this could be that team. All-Star Jose Altuve finally has some talent around him, as top prospects like George Springer are now helping the big league team win games.

Luhnow, in Drellich's piece, identifies a need to acquire a starting pitcher for the rotation.

"Really, the only area that’s obvious is in the rotation. We probably will explore rotation adds that makes sense for our team, ’cause we’ve had a lot of rotating doors so far in the fifth spot."

The Astros have dealt with injuries and under-performance from that fifth spot in the rotation and could try to solidify their rotation for the summer pennant push.

What can the Astros actually do?

There is one issue however. An opening day payroll of $72 million could hinder their ability to go out and bring in another starting pitcher, but Luhnow suggests the club would "have the ability" to make moves -- and has already discussed playoff-push options with owner Jim Crane.

I'm speculating here, but obvious names like Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto come to mind but the cost may be too high for the Astros. Second and third tier starters like Mets' Dillon Gee or Phillies' Aaron Harang are more of what the Astros would (or should) be looking for.

As the summer goes on and more teams fall out of contention, cheaper options for the Astros could appear.

Do the Astros have movable pieces to make a deal?

The Astros have the 3rd best farm system in baseball, according to ESPN's Keith Law.

They could tap into that system and trade a younger, starting pitcher that may be a few years away or they could trade from the big league roster with their depth in the outfield. Springer, L.J. Hoes, Jake Marisnick, Colby Rasmus and Robbie Grossman are all a part of the 25 man roster and the Astros may use one of them to address their needs.