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2016 MLB Trade Deadline Preview: Houston Astros

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A look at what the Astros are expected to do before the trade deadline.

MLB: Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
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Houston Astros: 45-39, 2nd in the AL West

Though they got off to a slow start, which certainly wasn’t helped by Dallas Keuchel’s slump, the Astros seem to have hit some kind of a stride where they’re winning enough games to be in contention for—at the very least—a Wild Card spot.

The rotation hasn’t exactly been “pray for rain,” especially with Keuchel’s lackluster follow up to a Cy Young-winning season, but they’ve hung on enough to win enough games to be second in the division.

The lineup seems to be faring better, with Jose Altuve hitting .353/.424/.567 this season with 14 home runs and 21 stolen bases. 2015 AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa is hitting .262/.361/.462 and has hit 13 home runs on the season.

Otherwise, the lineup doesn’t seem to be getting worse. Despite hitting .244 collectively, their batting average on balls in play is at .297, which means they’re hitting the ball, but unfortunately for them, right at fielders. But because it seems like they can scorch the ball pretty well, it all falls into luck and fielding, and that means it’s not really the lineup’s fault that the ball doesn’t fall in for a hit.

Are they buyers or sellers?

A year after making big deals for Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez, the Astros could have a very quiet trade deadline, but could be measured buyers if they decide to make moves. Even though they’re 7.5 games back of the AL West lead, there’s certainly more than enough time to make a push for that spot. And even if that’s not in reach, the AL Wild Cards are. And if they really want to make a push for it, they’ll be buyers. This is a far cry from when they were thinking about being sellers while in the cellar.

Multiple sources told our Chris Cotillo early this week that the Astros are not expected to be busy this month, but are considering upgrades at every area. It appears that their focus will be on starting pitchers and a lefty reliever if they’re looking to make a deal. The rotation has a collective 4.27 ERA, which is 10th best in the league. That’s not the worst, by any means, but they can certainly use an upgrade there.

According to our own Chris Cotillo, it seems unlikely that they’ll upgrade at catcher, though they’re sniffing around that market.

Who will they target?

As said above, it’s unlikely they’ll trade for a catcher, though Cotillo has heard them connected to Padres catcher Derek Norris. With the Padres’ hardcore Padres-ing this season—meaning that they’re not exactly as good as some might’ve hoped and instead are enjoying the season below .500—it makes sense that they’d want to trade a catcher with a little power in his bat, having hit 11 home runs this season. Norris is hitting .212/.269/.402 and is recovering from what seems to be an elbow injury that’s not severe enough to put him on the DL.

With available starting pitching, they could make a run for Rays lefty Matt Moore, who they’ve been linked to in the Boston Globe. Moore won’t help make a dent in the collective starters’ ERA with a 4.54 ERA himself, but he could certainly help out the rotation a bit.

In terms of lefty relievers, Twins lefty Fernando Abad may be the most available option at this point. Houston has long been interested in Yankees relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, and could re-kindle its interest in those two as the month progresses.

The same Boston Globe article said that the Blue Jays are keeping tabs on the Astros’ farm system, so it’s possible that a Blue Jay might be an Astro this time next month. But with the Blue Jays also in contention, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of trade pans out from this, if there even is one at all.

Predictions:

Though it’s possible they’ll make a deal here or there, it might seem more likely to see the Astros reach into their farm system for help with some positions. Joe Musgrove isn’t expected to reach the majors until early 2017, though, and Musgrove has seen time in both Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 0.34 ERA in six games, and Triple-A Fresno, where has a 4.73 ERA in seven games. There’s more to be said about continuing his development, but if the player development team says he’s ready, then he’s ready.

It’s also highly likely that they could use the farm system as trade chips, as they did before to acquire Carlos Gomez in 2015.

As it stands now, the Astros seem poised to be quiet about things on the trade front and you don’t even see many names linked to the team. It seems like a miracle to even see a name linked to them. Maybe they just did a better job of securing that firewall.

At the same time, it seems as though the Astros know just what they need and what they’re doing.