The trade deadline is looming once more. The Houston Astros, again, are set to be buyers. And, given the recent promotion of Alex Bregman, the recall of Preston Tucker, and the signing of Yulieski Gourriel, it's extremely likely that the Astros will be targeting pitching. Upgrades to the rotation are few and far between, however there do exist some options that would almost certainly bolster the Astros rotation.
With the presence of Mike Fiers, Scott Feldman, Doug Fister, among others, the Astros are inundated with back of the rotation calibre starters. What the Astros need, therefore, is an ace. If they do, indeed, have intentions of moving for a starting pitcher, it's extremely likely that the new addition would be a top of the rotation guy.
So, who might be available?
Prior to what can only be described as an absolutely ridiculous, completely childish, and utterly stupid incident, Chris Sale was an interesting name. In terms of pure talent, there are not too many better than Sale. Whilst the leftie isn't quite anywhere near the same league as Clayton Kershaw, in my eyes he is probably the second best left handed starting pitcher in the game.
Since his major league debut in 2010, his xFIP of 3.00 ranks the fifth lowest among all starting pitchers. In the same time span, he also ranks fourth in K/9, punching batters out an incredible rate of 10.05 per nine innings. However, is there any doubt that Sale is a huge clubhouse cancer? In addition, the price in prospects would be huge, and imagine the price in jerseys if he brings his scissors (just kidding, kind of).
Bleacher Report suggested the following prospect haul would suffice: Lance McCullers (already a no from me), Alex Bregman (even more no), David Paulino, Colin Moran, and James Hoyt. Would the Astros even, holistically speaking, improve after such a trade? I don't think so. And, above that, the clubhouse must certainly wouldn't. Sale is a huge no from me, but it would be remiss of me not to suggest the trade given his incredible talent.
Moving onto somebody who is a huge yes from me: Chris Archer. The ace of the struggling Tampa Bay Rays. Having had a rough start to the season, the Rays wouldn't be selling high on Archer, which is music to the ears of the Astros, who, no doubt, are determined not to finish the trade season with a farm system devoid of high end talent.
His career numbers, which are much closer to his true talent, are impressive: a FIP of 3.50, an xFIP of 3.49, 9.27 K/9 and a WAR of 11.8 after 114 starts. He's under contractual control through the 2019 season (he signed a six year, $25 million deal, making him extremely cheap), with two option years. He's extremely charismatic, proving a huge success as a broadcaster during this year's playoffs. Point being, in complete contrast to Sale, I'd imagine he'd slot nicely into the clubhouse.
A.J. Reed, Joe Musgrove, Francis Martes, Andrew Aplin, and James Hoyt for Chris Archer: who says no? Maybe you.
Another interesting option who must be considered is Jake Odorizzi. A poor man's Chris Archer, perhaps. Whilst he does not fit the criteria of adding an ace, something I think the Astros will in fact do, if nothing else, he would almost certainly improve the rotation. Again, his numbers on the season aren't great, but some positive regression towards his decent career numbers is probably likely, making an instant upgrade over, say, Doug Fister.
In addition, a significantly smaller prospect haul could net Odorizzi. However, his aforementioned lack of ace status forces him into the no category, for me, anyway. Returning the pitchers who may merit the title of 'ace', how about Julio Teheran? The Atlanta Braves should be big sellers, although the return they received for Shelby Miller might just scare away any potential suitors.
Assuming they could add Teheran to the fold for the same prospect price as either Sale, or Archer, or hopefully a little less, could he make a big difference to the Astros in this year's playoff push, and right through the 2019 season, on a tiny contract with an option year? His ERA of 2.71 certainly warrants top of rotation consideration. However, his advanced stats look slightly worrying. A FIP of 3.76, with an xFIP 4.03: red flags.
Perhaps the only reason we assume Teheran to be ace worthy is as a result of his fantastic 2014 season, posting a 2.89 ERA, with 7.57 Ks per nine innings, whilst walking a mere 2.08 per nine. His strikeout to walk ratio is still terrifically high this season, posting 4.11 strikeouts for every walk, though. In conclusion for Teheran: who knows. Strong K/BB numbers, a strong ERA, horrible advanced metrics, and a tough front office to deal with. Probably a pass, too.
Both Andrew Cashner and Rich Hill are names that continually come up in trade discussions this year. As two of the premier arms available, that tells you a lot about the quality of the market this season. Hill quite simply hasn't pitched enough innings of late to prove to anyone that he can continue to pitch extremely well, deep into the season. Cashner simply doesn't have the quality to really, seriously improve the rotation.
If the Astros are, indeed, planning on moving for a quality starting pitcher, options are few and far between. Having, here, explored some of the options (of course, this is not an exhaustive list) it's difficult to say whether the Astros can, actually, go out, make a splash, and really improve the team. In the meantime, though, I shall leave you with this...
A.J. Reed, Joe Musgrove, Francis Martes, Andrew Aplin, and James Hoyt for Chris Archer: who says no?