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Why the Astros should be buyers at the trade deadline: A Counterpoint

Why my esteemed colleague is wrong.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, July 15. A glorious day for reflection, casual misogyny and absolutely no televised sports. That lets us indulge into one of a fan's greatest pleasures, armchair GMing.

For those of you familiar with my work on this fine internet site, you'll know I love coming up with fake trades. The only thing I love more than making fake trades is pop culture references or casting a popular TV show with Astros.

This year is no exception. I've got some ideas on what the Astros will do by the end of this month, but first, I'd like to acknowledge that my former colleague, Mr. CRPerrywrote an excellent piece arguing against the very trades you see below.

I'm not a smart man. Mr. Perry is absolutely smarter than me. Yet, he couldn't be more wrong in his premise.

That's the real thrust of this article. It's not to throw out some fake trades, much as I'd enjoy it. What I want to do is lay out the strategy the Astros could be employing as we approach the trade deadline.

See, it's not as linear a decision as it's been made to seem my the hot stove media. Sure, the Astros will be in the market for starting pitching. Sure, it makes sense that they'd go after Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels. Those are two of the best pitchers on the market.

A common theme of sports talk radio (*ahem* Looking at you, Mr. Pallillo) has been that Houston needs to make a Cole Hamels trade. That they're nothing until they push their chips in and get a front-line starter like Hamels, especially one who will be around for a while.

It makes sense, too. Since you are on this site, I assume you're an intelligent baseball fan who knows the modern trends. You've read Moneyball and Rob Neyer and Jonah Keri and understand what the sharps in baseball front offices are doing. It's all about team control, right? You don't make a trade unless you can control a player beyond this season.

Why, then, do so many reports show the Astros as having interest in these pending free agents like Cueto over a guy like Hamels? Cueto is going to leave and get a ton of money. Is he even worth it?

No, he's not. No player is worth the scads of money they get on the open market. Even Max Scherzer, who's having a best-case season for the Nationals, may not be worth it in two years. So, what's going on?

I won't pretend to know how The Nerd Cave or Jeff Luhnow and David Stearns think. They, too, are much smarter than me. If we accept their connections to pending free agents, which also includes Jeff Smarzakldf;lajd and Scott Kazmir, then we have to figure out why they're doing this.

We know the Astros have a long-term plan. It's extensive and it basically got Luhnow his job when he showed it to Jim Crane. I'm guessing it's also more of a living document, changing slightly every year while keeping its eye on the ultimate goal.

Yet, that long-term plan shouldn't affect single seasons. Those are still special and unique. Houston may have gone into this year thinking they'd be at .500 and maybe chase more, but now they are here. They're vying for a playoff spot. They shouldn't ignore that for the sake of the future. They should try to maximize their chance at the big prize.

If they're going to do this, what will they have to give up? Prospects and lots of them. Chris is absolutely correct in that. The price will be prohibitive.

Yet, the Astros also have a glut on the farm in one particular area: Rule 5-eligible players. That issue from last winter isn't going away. They lost a few guys last time around that had value.

What if Houston's interest in pending free agents is really about what they have to sell? By sending these about-to-be-added 40-man guys off, or players who they might get bumped off the 40-man this winter, they spend prospect capital on something tangible for this season and extract value out of a player or players who might leave anyway.

Other GMs aren't stupid. But Luhnow isn't trying to buy Clayton Kershaw for magic beans. If he gives Walt Jocketty two Rulr 5-eligible guys at the top of Houston's prospect list and a Francis Martes-type lotto ticket, is that more valuable to the Reds than the supplemental pick they'd get from Cueto leaving in free agency?

That's his sell. That's why he's shopping where he is. It's not quite the bargain bin, but what he's got to sell won't get him much team control. Which is fine. Both sides likely understand that.

If you didn't like Houston losing DDJ for nothing, you'd want to see Houston do this. They might even lose Cueto or whoever to another team in free agency. That's fine too. That half-season is still worth something and that MLB value is worth more than the potential value of guys they might lose in the Rule 5 this winter.

That strange, convoluted value logic may be hard to explain, but you know the Nerd Cave have it locked down. They understand what a player is worth and what their prospects are worth, too.

That's why if Houston doesn't make a trade, it won't be because they didn't want to affect the long-term plan. It's because they couldn't find a match at the Short Service Time Swap Meet.