On the Astros: Will the Astros really stand pat at the trade deadline?

Scott Halleran

Trying to make sense of a seemingly contradictory idea in a recent article.

Usually, these posts are long-winded, taking a subject and talking them to death. This one is going to be shorter, because I'm not sure I have any answers, just questions.

On Monday, Brian T. Smith wrote an article about how this current stretch of games will decide Houston's fate. They play a series of teams who are having great seasons, like the Cardinals. If they keep up this .500 pace for those games, that might determine how the team attacks the trade deadline.

Except...what?

Doesn't this run counter-intuitive to everything we know about this Astros front office? Under Luhnow, the one thing we can be sure about with this team is they're guided by a long-term plan. The 22 page one that Luhnow showed Jim Crane in his interview.

We also know that this front office understands statistics better than me, certainly, and possibly better than any writer covering this team. So, they could definitely grasp that how Houston plays over this small stretch of games means nothing about how the team will do over the entire season. They could lose games here and still get back to .500 for the month after that.

But, Smith had to get this idea from somewhere, right? It's not something that just sprang out of his head, unbidden. Smith is good at his job and knows how to talk to people in the organization to get an idea of how the front office will operate.

In short, he wouldn't go out on a limb about how this team will approach the trade deadline.

That's what is so weird. If the Astros play .500 ball against these teams, they won't trade off pieces like Jose Veras or Bud Norris? If the Astros were to play .500 baseball (like they have since May 15) for the rest of the season, they still finish with a record of 72-90. That's still well out of the playoff race and isn't exactly a record that will thrill the fan base.

I can understand the Astros not being forced to trade players unless they get impact prospects. That's something Jeff Luhnow has already talked about in interviews. I can understand the front office wanting the team to play better, to come together as a unit without wholesale roster turnover. That's something Bo Porter has talked about since Day 1.

But, letting the next 20-30 games dictate how they approach the trade deadline?

That's a puzzler.

Maybe the plan will always be The Plan, but each season is its own encapsulated entity. Maybe the big lesson from last year is that continuity matters and the team would rather trade players in the offseason. Or maybe Smith was just writing an article without tons of insider knowledge. Maybe he was rolling one out like I do on this very site.

What do you think? Is there anything here? Can you come up with a tidy explanation to reconcile this? Or am I just reading too much into one lousy article?

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