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Identifying and evaluating potential trade targets


Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the season is almost upon us. The Houston Astros are still the team to beat. As of today, the Astros have the second highest likelihood of reaching the playoffs in the American League, second to only the Kansas City Royals. The roster, currently, is good; good enough, evidently, to have fueled the early success. However, there are some holes, some warts and some areas in need of improvement.

The area most likely to be addressed is probably the rotation. Yes, the rotation is talented. Yes, we do have decent rotational depth. However, if I'm Jeff Luhnow, I'm trading for a starting pitcher. Having too many good arms is far from a problem. Second, the baseball season (particularly if you're playing deep into October), is a long one; injuries and dips in form are inevitable. Trading for another quality arm would safeguard against any such problems.

Scott Kazmir

Kazmir is, surely, the most attractive option available. A FIP of 3.39, a solid GB rate, he strikes guys out and he doesn't walk too many. Peter Gammons, rather cryptically, tweeted yesterday that the Astros might be interested in him/might be working out a trade for him/might know who he is. Okay, the tweet gave nothing away. Regardless, having Kazmir and Astros in the same sentence makes me quiver with excitement.

He is far from an ace. But, we don't need an ace. Dallas Keuchel is the man for that. A one-two-three, Lefty-righty-lefty punch of Keuchel, Kazmir and Collin McHugh would be rather lethal. It would give the Astros a much needed push to breeze into the playoffs. The price tag wouldn't be ridiculous. The front office in Oakland aren't stupid. Kazmir has only half a season left on his contract.

I'd assume a prospect like Colin Moran and another lower tier prospect would get the job done. I'd be, and you should be, too, interested in any deal like such. Jeff Luhnow's track record with trades, thus far, has been rather stellar. A deal to add Kazmir to the rotation would follow suit. Go get him, Jeff.

Cole Hamels


Mike Leake

I was going to write about Johnny Cueto as a potential target. But, I much prefer Leake as a target, instead. He isn't going to overwhelm you. He's solid, an innings eater and has a lot of potential. Pitching in the hitter friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Leake hasn't been able to showcase his true ability. Have a look at his xFIP from the past five years:

  • 3.68
  • 3.82
  • 3.91
  • 3.49
  • 3.80
His GB%, from the past five seasons:
  • 47.7
  • 48.9
  • 48.7
  • 53.4
  • 52.8
If that doesn't impress you, I give up. He doesn't strike out too many, but he doesn't walk very many, either. He has one year left on his contract and should therefore come at a reasonable price in terms of prospects. I'd assume a lesser package than one needed to lure Kazmir from Oakland. He could fit nicely into the middle of the Astros' rotation.

Other potential targets: Aaron Harang, Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner or Sonny Gray (in our wildest dreams).

The rotation is the obvious place to upgrade, however, we do have some warts in the outfield, too. Primarily, Jake Marisnick's bat has vanished off the face of the earth. Currently on the DL, an upgrade from his wRC+ of 85 and his WAR of 0.5 would be welcomed. His defense, of course, makes him a valuable asset; but, with the playoffs on the horizon, a upgrade offensively is needed.

Brandon Moss
Moss could be a potential target. The outfielder, who admittedly is poor on defense, has a great bat. He was third last season in FB%, something the Astros would surely welcome. His contract would be easy on the payroll, being only owed six and a half million this season. Moss is certainly an option.

Josh Reddick
Reddick is another option. The A's outfielder is owed a little over only four million dollars this season. His bat would be a monumental upgrade over Marisnick and his defense has been gold glove worthy over his career. He runs the bases well, and has a decent FB percentage. Reddick is my favourite option for an outfield upgrade.

There is a serious lack of options to improve in centre field; the only centre fielder who is almost certainly available is Ben Revere, and he wouldn't be a huge upgrade. Personally, I feel like the Astros could get away without adding an outfielder; but better safe than sorry. A bat like Reddick could be the difference maker in the playoff pursuit.

Dream scenario? The Astros add Kazmir and Reddick in a big trade. Naturally, the price would be a little high. I'm an advocate of the Astros adding a player, or two, through the trade market but, don't forget this Astros team has been built to compete this season, next season, the one after that and heck, the one after that, too. There, certainly, is no rush for the Astros to add pieces this season. But with a stacked farm, a miniscule payroll and some great form; get working, Luhnow.