Now that the non-waiver deadline has passed, we’re taking a look back at what each team was able to accomplish before 4 p.m. ET on July 31. Next up in our recap series, the Houston Astros.
Houston Astros (71-40), 1st in AL West
ACQUIRED: LHP Francisco Liriano (from TOR)
TRADED: OF Nori Aoki (to TOR), OF Teoscar Hernandez (to TOR)
The Astros currently enjoy a cozy lead atop the AL West and will win the division barring an unforeseen miracle. They have arguably the best offense in baseball, and look like the best team in the American League on paper.
However, the Astros were relatively quiet at the trade deadline after some deals fell through, only netting Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays in a three-player deal after failing to finalize a trade with Baltimore for Zach Britton. Houston focused on making big-time additions to their rotation and bullpen on July 31, but spent time coming close to multiple deals for big names and were never able to get one across the finish line.
Sure, they’re in no danger of losing the division lead, but after losing Lance McCullers Jr to the DL and Dallas Keuchel trying to find his groove after recently returning from injury, there are some who have a problem with the Astros’ lack of activity at the trade deadline.
If Keuchel and McCullers battle injuries for the rest of the season, the Astros will really need their potent offense to bail their pitching out in a big way if they are to make a playoff run, especially because their bullpen is 24th in baseball in ERA. There is not much behind their starting pitching to eat up innings, so losing out on guys like Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish could come back to haunt them in October.
In terms of the bullpen, Liriano was their only acquisition. He has started every game he has appeared in this season, but will be used in a relief role in Houston to aid their struggling bullpen. We’ll see how he fares in his new role, but the Astros hope he will be more effective in shorter outings to maximize his efficiency, especially against lefties.
The team’s biggest needs were on the mound, and it is hard to argue that they filled any of those. Liriano isn’t enough for a bullpen that is near the bottom of the league, and unless both Keuchel and McCullers come back to full health by the playoffs, their golden opportunity for a World Series berth could be in doubt.
There is still a chance to make an addition at the waiver deadline for a starting pitcher if McCullers and Keuchel still struggle with staying healthy, but as of now the Astros’ deadline performance has to be considered at least mildly disappointing. The club has had discussions with the Tigers about Justin Verlander already this month, though it doesn’t appear a deal is likely there.
Of course, Houston is still one of the best teams in baseball, but one that is starting to show cracks while other contenders are getting stronger. Hopefully for the Astros, they ride a tidal wave of home runs to mask their pitching problems.