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Starting Nine: Where to upgrade?

Houston is back on the right track, but the trade deadline is less than seven weeks away and not every position is thriving.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies couldn't have come at a better time. Promoting Carlos Correa didn't hurt either.

Houston was stuck in its worst stretch of the season -- a seven-game losing streak -- but they've broken out in a big way with a couple of blowout wins over the Seattle Mariners plus three decisive victories over the lowly Rockies.

However, the seven-game skid showed that Houston has chinks in the armor as we all knew; they just hadn't been exposed for extended period of time. While the Astros have pieces to deal that are thriving in the minor leagues, some of those pieces could certainly be promoted to help Houston. It's hard to nitpick something that is working -- if it ain't broke don't fix it, right? --  but the Astros likely will not be quiet come late July. Now it's just a matter of how.

Today's Starting Nine:

Whether through external or internal means, what position of the Astros needs to be upgraded most?


That's a question without an easy answer. I typed up several sentences about starting pitching because of the workloads of Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez, but then I remembered that Brett Oberholtzer is healthy again (and dealt a gem last start, proving he's at least capable of giving the rotation a boost), and Scott Feldman isn't far behind him. So injuries notwithstanding, it's pretty easy to envision a rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Oberholtzer, and Feldman, with McCullers and Velasquez "tandem-ing." If the Astros do that, what value in adding starting pitching? I suppose you could spin a scenario where the Astros trade off Feldman and then trade for a Scott Kazmir or somebody (not Cole Hamels, if you're still flogging that long-deceased equus), but that's pretty unlikely, given Feldman's injury and contract. Never can have too much starting pitching, you say? Sure you can, if additional starting pitching is unnecessary and costs you a legitimate prospect or two.

So....I guess I'll go with middle infield. I would love to see the Astros trade for a legitimate backup infielder who isn't Jonathan Villar or Marwin Gonzalez. They're both okay utility players, but it seems that the Astros have one of them in the lineup every day (when in the majors, that is). Jed Lowrie coming back would make this a moot point, so maybe that's a bad idea after all.

Man, I don't know. If I had inside information on Lowrie and Feldman's comebacks, that would help a lot. But assuming they're both on track for their currently-scheduled returns, I'd be tempted to stand pat, because there's nobody readily available that I'd feel like I just had to add over the guys already on the club.

Nah, I'd go ahead and trade for Kazmir, if the price was right. Then I'd make it work somehow. Maybe.

Matthew Hall

Starting pitching (though Chris makes a good argument and I could totally see them going with what they've already got.)

Our rotation with Keuchel, a healthy Obie and Feldman, wisely rationed McCullers and VV, and a resurgent McHugh, would be plenty good.

But it's just as likely that most of those conditions aren't, rather than are, met. What if McHugh keeps floundering, Obie's blister reappears, Feldman comes back late and lackluster, and the inning rationing for our rookies leaves us in need of quality innings to make a playoff run?


I think adding another starting pitcher may be a good idea, assuming that the trading cost is not too high. At this point, I'm addressing this from a point of uncertainty; and I can't say that the uncertainty will clear up before the trade deadline. Maybe I would change my mind at some point if the circumstances look better. Injuries are always a concern, because of the frequency among pitchers. There is no indication that McHugh is injured--other than a couple of recent performances which are so atypical for him, that you have the injury speculation in the back of your mind. That's one question mark. The two rookies in the rotation will face innings limitations. Oberholtzer has had his own injuries which have made it hard to stay in the rotation. We don't know for sure when Feldman will be back. You get my drift---another pitcher who is relatively cheap, in terms of acquisition cost, would be helpful. Lohse and Kazmir could be possibilities. At this point, I don't think it's a necessity, meaning I would pass if the cost is too high.
I think that there will be auditions for internal upgrades among position players over the course of the season, particularly if injuries occur. Guys like Santana and Kemp could see some time in the majors this years. But I don't think a trade is necessary for a position player, given that Lowrie will return to the team around mid-season and likely fill in at various spots.

David Spradley

Starting pitching or a legit middle of the order bat.

Our current pitching depth might be enough to get us through the season and a potential playoff run but that's a pretty big maybe. Question marks on McHugh's effectiveness, Oberholtzer's health, and how good McCullers and Velasquez will hold up during a full season make the rotation iffy. In a perfect world, it would all click seamlessly, but our world at Minute Maid Park has always been far from perfect. I could see Luhnow adding a 2nd tier pitcher, quite possibly someone that the media hasn't guessed yet.

Now that we're nearing July maybe Chris Carter and Evan Gattis will act like the middle of the order bats that we need, but if there is any chance of getting a guy that is consistent with his production I would take him in a heartbeat. Of course I have no idea who that would be, and have no names to offer up since teams aren't keen to trade their offensive pieces these days, so I'll just hope for a starting pitcher.Starting pitching. Chris' arguments are good, but I don't have enough faith in the rotation as it stands.

Brian Stevenson

Starting pitching. Chris' arguments are good, but I don't have enough faith in the rotation as it stands.

Feldman was inconsistent before being injured. Oberholtzer was injured and has been inconsistent since returning. McCullers and Velasquez have fewer than 10 starts between them and never faced AAA hitters. McHugh hasn't been anywhere near what we saw last year. Keuchel is the only guy I'm not at least a little worried about, and even he will likely regress from super-ace to just a solid #1 (2.80-3.00 ERA range.) Go out and get another pitcher. I'm not saying give up the farm, but get someone solid, someone reliable, someone proven. If there's a logjam, deal with that then. Feldman is solid, but he was our rebuilding starter last year. Now we need starters for do-or-die playoff games. Oberholtzer looks promising, but he's not proven. Neither are the two young guns. I would challenge someone to tell me they're really totally comfortable taking the current rotation to battle in the playoffs.

Perry Mattern

Starting pitcher at a low price is the number one priority. Assuming Velasquez and McCullers are on inning limits, then that leaves a rotation of Keuchel, McCugh, Oberholtzer, Feldman and a grab bag of Hernandez, Wojciehowski, Deduno or Peacock? That's not very inspiring, even if all are healthy.

Utility infielder is also a potential need as the Astros currently have Altuve and Lowrie on the shelf. There are no guarantees that both -- or anyone else for that matter -- will remain healthy down the stretch. Unfortunately, Marwin Gonzalez's offensive performance has fallen off a cliff. Of course, there are options currently in the minor leagues, but counting on any of them to hit is foolish.