The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is July 31st, one month away. There are decisions to be made in the coming weeks regarding what to pursue on the trade market; whether or not an acceptable deal for players like, , or can be reached, the will need to decide what they want in return to pull the trigger on a trade for any of those players.
Castro is all but guaranteed to be the starting
As for Jason Bourgeois, he's not a prospect, and it's doubtful that any decisions will be structured around his abilities. Still, I like what I see from him enough that if a great deal were reached involving Pence or Bourn, I wouldn't be upset with giving him a shot to start in the outfield. It's also possible that
If all of these three players do look likely to continue in their current roles next season around the July 31st deadline, what types of players should the Astros focus on getting back to help next season and in the future?
Shortstop. While Castro and Johnson might have the ability to start at their positions on many teams,almost assuredly does not. He's a stopgap player, and after his early season performance, he would have been out of a job in most organizations, consigned to a career in the upper minors. Since 2011 is likely a rebuilding year, giving him another chance wouldn't hurt (he's shown a pattern of struggling in his first stop at a level throughout his minor league career), but it's not the ideal solution, and he certainly wouldn't stand in the way of a better player obtained via trade. What are some possible shortstop trade targets for the Astros?
, (MLB). Having been a very good shortstop over the course of his short major league career, it is unlikely that the Braves would trade Escobar, but there have been rumors that they are unhappy with him and might be willing to move him. It might require a piece like to get this deal done, or perhaps a three-way trade which sends another shortstop (Stephen Drew, perhaps?) to Atlanta.
- , (MLB). The Rays' shortstop situation is in question, since Jason Bartlett has not performed up to his career levels this season. However, if they would like a good player to shore up another position for a playoff push, Brignac would be one of their best pieces to obtain one. If the Astros were willing to eat Oswalt's contract, the Rays might be interested in him to anchor the top of their rotation, but a corner bat like Berkman or Pence would probably draw more interest.
/ , (MLB/AA). Although the Nationals are no longer contenders in the NL East, they are still rumored to be after players who can help them over the next couple of years. They could use another top of the rotation starter and a corner outfielder. Desmond projects to be average or slightly above as a shortstop, while Danny Espinosa has a higher ceiling, but needs a little more time in the minors.
- , (A+). The Mets are rumored to be willing to include Flores in a deal for , so if that falls through, they might be convinced to package him in a deal for Oswalt. There are some questions about whether he can stick at shortstop as he matures, and he won't be MLB-ready until 2012 or later, but Flores is an excellent prospect.
Roy Oswalt, but the Astros should certainly try to get him if the Dodgers are willing to deal. The speedy shortstop was promoted aggressively to AA this season and has performed respectably there after skipping A+. He profiles as an Elvis Andrus-type player at the next level. The problem is, as usual, that the Dodgers may not be able to take on payroll in a deadline trade; if the Astros are willing to eat a large portion of Oswalt's contract, that would make a deal with them seem much more likely.
, (AA). Gordon may or may not be untouchable in a trade for a player like
Starting Pitcher. While the Astros' starting rotation has been a relative strength this season, next year it could be much weaker. It is possible that both
Prospects like Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel may contribute at some point in the 2011 season, but neither of them is likely to be with the big league club opening day, and they may not arrive until as late as September. With that in mind, getting back a good young starter close to (or in) the Majors would be ideal in any trade involving Myers or Oswalt. Almost every organization has at least one such player, so I will focus only on some of the most likely or most interesting ones. I can't hope to cover all of the interesting possibilities, so feel free to point out more in the comments section if you like.
Martin Perez/Tanner Scheppers, Rangers (AA/AAA). Rangers fans hate that either of these players could be included in a trade for
Roy Oswalt, but even they acknowledge that it's a possibility, if the Astros eat some of Oswalt's contract, which is almost a necessity because of the Rangers' financial situation. Both players have electric stuff and top of the rotation potential. Perez, like Jordan Lyles, is only 19, and will not be ready for the majors until at least the middle of next season. He is, however, the better of the two prospects, because Scheppers has some significant injury risks attached to him.
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays (AAA). Having posted excellent numbers everywhere he's gone, Hellickson is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball despite stuff which is, while above average, not a plus. He has otherworldly pitchability... and no home on the Rays' big league club, where he is logjammed. The Rays don't like taking on big contracts, so the Astros would either have to eat salary (in trading a player like Lance Berkman), or send a productive cost-controlled player (like Pence) to get him back in a trade. Even then, it may not be possible.
- John Ely, Dodgers (MLB). Not an elite prospect by any means, Ely does not have great stuff, but has produced good results in his rookie season. His minor league track record is solid but unspectacular. It is unlikely that he will be better than a no. 3 or no. 4 starter going forward, but he could be a useful innings eater in that role. He would not be the only big piece involved in a trade with the Dodgers, but might be included as part of the package.
Mike Minor/Julio Teheran/Randall Delgado/Arodys Vizcaino, Braves (AA/A+). As usual, the Braves have a whole swarm of great pitching prospects. They're looking to win now, but don't exactly have any openings in their starting rotation, so
Roy Oswaltmight be out of the question, unless there is an injury, or perhaps the Astros take back a bad contract like Derek Lowe's in return for getting superior prospects. Alternatively, Hunter Pencecould draw some interest in Atlanta. Mike Minor is the only one of these prospects likely to pitch in the Majors in 2011, so he would likely be Houston's foremost target, but might be untouchable.
Kyle Gibson, Twins (AA). The Twins could be one of the teams on the market for
Roy Oswaltor Brett Myersif they strike out on Cliff Lee. Their most intriguing pitching prospect is Gibson, who has some injury concerns, but good stuff and pitchability, and is performing well in his first pro season, having split time between A+ and AA.
Todd Frazier, Reds (AAA). In the thick of the NL Central race, the Reds will almost certainly hunt for upgrades in the next month. The question is, are the Astros willing to deal with them? A player like
Roy Oswaltor Brett Myersmight interest them quite a bit, but intra-division trades are notoriously difficult to pull off. If the two parties do decide to deal, Todd Frazier could be one possibility from the Reds' system. Frazier's versatility is attractive, and he has the bat to play very well at second base, although his 2010 season has so far been somewhat disappointing.
Brock Bond, Giants (AAA). Bond is not a top prospect, probably because his best
toolis his ability to draw a walk and get on base (career .418 OBP in the minors), but that's exactly what appeals to me about him. He's exactly the kind of undervalued player who could become the next Ben Zobrist. He's having another good season at AAA, and if the Astros could sneak him away from the Giants, I'd be thrilled.