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TCB’s Starting 9: Trade Deadline picks

We need someone... QUICK

MLB: ALDS-Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Cohn (HH):

Top pick: Seth Lugo

Lugo was rumored to be available this past off-season, and he’s been a player I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. As a multi-inning reliever with starting experience, he brings both short and long term value. Frankly his spin rates could put him in the Pressly levels of elite with the help of some Strom Magic. His K/9 continues to improve and with the Mets looking like sellers, there’s a possibility they’d listen about moving him at the deadline. I did an article on him in the off-season which is probably due for another look but definitely reinforced him as the top target for me. With that said, he would be more costly with multiple years of control and the Mets may be more eager to hold on to him due to that club control

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Most Realistic: Zack Wheeler

As noted above, the Mets look to be eyeing the future and potentially dealing from their roster. Wheeler, once the third head of the three headed beast of a starting rotation has had an inconsistent career but always possessed the tool to be an elite starter. I went into more depth about the potential of a Wheeler acquisition in an article earlier this year, in which I noted his pitching arsenal, his contract status (pure rental), and current performance (suppressed by some poor luck) all point to him aligning well as a potential trade target.

There’s better pitchers, pitchers with longer control, and less costly options but Wheeler seems to align the best across all three boxes. The payroll crunch the Astros face next year makes a Bauer trade near impossible. Stroman will be a stretch but may be possible. Boyd would fit well but the prospect cost will be gut wrenching, and I don’t see the Astros trading for a pitcher just to fill innings ala Cashner/Roark style. Wheeler has the upside and ability, the right contract, and a lower prospect demand than any other of the rumored targets, making him my #1

Least Desired: Jose Abreu

Well, I wanted to stay in the realistic range of someone that’s rumored to be on the market and at least somewhat likely to be traded - because pointing out someone like Chris Davis seems like a cop out. Additionally, I know a few commenters will mention that they trust in Luhnow so any trade he makes they’re okay with. While I subscribe to In Luhnow We Trust, that doesn’t make an overly exciting article. I’m going to go with Jose Abreu from the least desired standpoint. The Astros were rumored to be interested in Encarnacion earlier this year, looking to add another potent bat into one of the best line ups in the game. Abreu seems to be another perennially recurring names for the Astros trade targets. If Diaz/Correa return healthy, it’s going to be very tough to get at bats for all the Astros as is, and Yuli has returned to his former “glory” minimizing the impact of such an upgrade.

Stephen Sydnor (Stephensyd):

Top pick: Stroman:

At first I was going to say Scherzer, but there’s his hefty contract. If the Astros had to choose between trading for Scherzer and bringing Cole back, then I’m choosing Cole. Yes Crane has the money, but he also has a budget. So, because Scherzer’s contract might contribute to less payroll flexibility and may have too high a total trade cost, my top pick is Marcus Stroman.

Most realistic: NA

Honestly, Luhnow could get a large number of starting pitchers who are on the block. I don’t know that there is one who has a better chance than any other.

Least Desired: Me

You wanted a real player? Too bad. You get the kid who got hit in the lip trying to catch a ball during little league baseball practice. ......... So I just got a call from the higher ups, it has to be a real player. Ok, um Abreu.

Bonus (suggested by SS): How Many players will the Astros acquire?

Stephen: Three. Luhnow generally makes multiple trades during the deadline.

2nd Bonus: Will any major leaguers get traded and which ones get DFA’ed?

Stephen: Yes, Kemp will get traded. He’s not a major leaguer, but Fisher will also.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports


My pick is Marcus Stroman. Here’s why

  1. He’s good enough right now to upgrade the post-season rotation. He’s not just a regular season inning-eater.
  2. He profiles like someone susceptible to the Strom magic. Could be another Cole/Pressly home improvement project.
  3. He is under team control through 2020. He is a semi-rental, thus not exorbitantly expensive, but he would be an Astro long enough to tide the team over the loss of Gerrit Cole after this year until the bevy of pitching prospects are ready to graduate.

Unfortunately, the Astros are not negotiating from strength this year. Every preseason Top 100 prospect has seen his stock drop this year, except one, and he’s not being traded. Furthermore, the demand for pitching outstrips supply more than most years. There are more teams contending for playoff berths than there are teams tanking. The cost in prospects could cost more than Astros fans may want to surrender, in part because that’s the going price in this market, and because guys like Tucker and Whitley are no longer viewed with the “can’t miss” certainty as much as they were before the season.

The Astros do have excess talent in the outfield to trade, although the current top four are all free agents in 2021. Derek Fisher and/or Myles Straw could sweeten a deal for a good pitcher.

And yes Stephen, Tony Kemp too, but if he weren’t a major league player no one would trade for him. But he is, almost exactly average by major league standards. His wRC+ was 110 last year, 10% above average, but this year it is 100, exactly average. He plays three positions; 2B, where his DRS is 3, LF where his DRS is also 3, and center field, where his DRS is -1, but his UZR is positive. In 132 games since 2017, at three positions, Kemp has not made a single fielding error. His fWAR is 0.6. For a full season with regular ABs he’s a 2.0 WAR player. He is under team control through 2023.

Don’t underestimate the value of Tony Kemp. He could sweeten a deal as well because he is a legit fourth outfielder/utility player in the big leagues.


I want Syndergaard. He’s not been at his best this year, but he can be absolutely dominant and has the capacity to be a true ace. With Cole unlikely to re-sign after this season, that will leave a void for the #2 starter. Really, I would want the #2 starter to be a #1A starter, the way Verlander and Cole have been (or the way Cole and Verlander have been, if you prefer.)

I don’t think any other trade candidate comes close to what Syndergaard can be for a team, if he is healthy. I recognize that’s a big if, but I’ll take that gamble. Syndergaard would be under team control for 2 additional years after this season. That is the main attraction. Although it might take a jewel like Tucker to get him, the next 2 years are some of the Astros’ primest window years.

That’s not to say I think the window is closing anytime soon, but the next 2 years we have Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly signed on, but not past then. The next two years may theoretically be the tail end of Altuve’s prime years. Carlos Correa and Roberto Osuna are only under team control for the next 2 years. Springer is under team control only for 1. Brantley is signed on for only 1 more year. Yes, they can be re-signed, or replenished from the farm system or free agency, but right now the Astros have known key components in place for the next two years. Securing a pitcher of Syndergaard’s caliber for the next two years would be huge.

And even though it may seem like I am going all in for the next two years, the Astros still have a lot of chips in their stack. Moving a guy like Tucker isn’t easy, but it’s still not going to bankrupt the farm.

Verlander/Syndergaard 2020. And Verlander/Syndergaard 2021. I’m ready to start passing out the buttons.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports


I’m something of a contrarian when it comes to posts like these, but even still, I don’t see the appeal of Stroman or other pitchers like him.

The Astros’ biggest trouble isn’t necessarily the banged-up-ed-ness of its current rotation; the patchwork rotation is good enough t o win the division easily, and I’d put my playoff rotation of Verlander, Cole, and Miley up against anybody and be more than comfortable that the offense can score enough. No, the bigger issue is that 2020’s rotation is Verlander and.....? It’s an issue that won’t be fixed in one trade deadline or one off-season.

And so, the Astros need somebody longer-controlled than “just through 2020”. For me, I’d rather see acquisitions of one (or more!) of the following: Matthew Boyd, Caleb Smith, Elieser Hernandez (yeah, I know), German Marquez, Luis Castillo, etc. Technically the Rockies and Dbacks are in the Wild Card hunt, but they shouldn’t close their ears against a deal that could land them a few ML-ready pieces.

Realistically, the Astros could deal from the Martin / Valdez / Armenteros / Bukauskas / Abreu / Ivey / Urquidy stable, add in a couple hitting prospects and perhaps a Tyler White or Tony Kemp and land a guy like that. Or even consider moving Tucker in a deal (depending on the deal, of course), and not really harm their long-term prospects as a World Series contending club.

My target would be Marquez, and it could be a mutually beneficial deal for both clubs. Marquez just can’t pitch at Coors; he has a 5.73 ERA at home with a .352 wOBA against, and a 3.33 ERA away. The Rockies obviously like him, as they recently signed him to a team-friendly $43M deal through 2024, but his 96 mph fastball / slider / curve combo just might not play well in that environment.

Might they prefer more Fastball/Changeup/Curve pitchers like Martin and Urquidy, plus Kemp to take ABs away from the woeful LF/2B combination of Raimel Tapia and Garret Hampson, not to mention the uninspiring-so-far bat of Ryan McMahon? I’d argue that such a trade, with perhaps another (good, young) prospect thrown in to the Rockies might be enough to not only get it done, but also improve the Rockies’ playoff chances.

Meanwhile, the Astros would be adding five and a half years of a starting pitcher who has a career ERA of 3.64 away from Coors field, while limiting walks and a K/9 total of almost one per inning.

That’s what I’d like to see, and it’s not entirely far fetched to imagine Jeff Luhnow pulling something like that off.

MLB: Game One-San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


Top Pick: Noah Syndergaard

My ideal trade for this July is technically Noah Syndergaard, but the idealized version of the trade: the Astros get him for a reasonable price for his current performance, but Brett Strom works his magic and turns him into Gerrit Cole 2.0. I think he still has the talent to recapture that 2016 magic (and even if he doesn’t reach that height, his even his 2018 level can still make him a playoff-quality starter), and being under control through 2021 will help bridge the Astros through the shake-up that looks to be coming over the next few years for their rotation. That’s a lot of conditionals, though, so this might be closer to a dream than a strategy. Maybe a somewhat plausible dream, given my level of faith in the front office and coaching staff (as well as my sense of their quality when compared directly with the Mets in both regards…), but still one nonetheless.

Most Realistic: Marcus Stroman

It just feels more likely that Stroman will move than Syndergaard to me right now? I worry that Syndergaard’s past will make the Mets more hesitant to move him in the next few weeks. I also worry that the game’s recent focus on cost-controlled years will make the price for someone like Matthew Boyd, who’s under team control through 2021, unreasonable given his track record (I don’t think I would give up Whitley or Tucker for him, and early reports are that they’d want one of them). Overall, I think Stroman is the best combination of performance, remaining potential, and likeliness to be moved of the top starters on the market; plus while one extra year isn’t ideal, it does get the team through next year at least. I do worry a little bit that other teams will come to this same realization and drive up his price more, but maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself here.


It’s Between Matthew Boyd and Noah Syndergaard for me.

As I wrote about last night, the Astros may go out and trade for two starters. However, one of them may be an innings eater mostly to help in the regular season. As we have seen in the past, Jeff Luhnow is not afraid to target the big names with patience and due diligence. In other words, he’s gonna wait till the last possible moment to get a deal done. We all remember how the Justin Verlander materialized at the last possible moment, and this year is likely to be no difference.

With the Astros looking for team control beyond 2019, Zach Wheeler was never really a desired option. How many significant rentals have the Astros traded for under Luhnow’s watch. That’s why I’ve got my eyes on Boyd and Syndergaard along with the longtime rumored Marcus Stroman.

If you want 2.5 years of Sydergaard, be prepared to give up Forrest Whitley and more. Under Brett Strom’s tutelage, how much better could Thor become? Because of his potential Randy Johnson like comeback with the Astros, the price will be high. What if the Astros could get 3.5 years of Boyd without giving up Whitley or Kyle Tucker? It would cost a lot to get Boyd, but I think you can do it without the top two prospects.

Boyd would be my top choice, but Syndergaard and Stroman would be a close second. Robbie Ray could be an option, but not for the ridiculous hypothetical trade suggested on the MLB Network. As we discussed on Talking Stros last night, the Astros will not trade Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas will not be involved in the same trade. Despite his setback this year, he is as close to untouchable as they can get.