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A limited supply of assets could complicate the Astros’ trade deadline plans

Adding quality big-league talent comes at a steep cost, which could put the Astros in a predicament.

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Houston Astros Summer Workouts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away. According to FanGraphs, the Astros have an 85.7 percent chance to win the AL West, and their odds of winning the World Series are tops in the AL and second overall only to the Dodgers. The club is assuredly going to be a buyer at the deadline. What’s yet to be determined is how high the top brass will aim.

The uncertainty stems from the condition of the organization’s farm system. While not devoid of talent, it’s not what it used to be, due to former general manager Jeff Luhnow’s tendency to go big-game hunting during this time of year. Those acquisitions have yielded a World Series title and four consecutive ALCS appearances.

They’ve also left the farm in a state of repair.

Coming into this season, The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked the Astros’ farm the 25th-best in baseball ($). It’s fairly unsurprising that current general manager James Click has only made a few insignificant trades since assuming the helm 17 months ago. What’s amplified the situation is the penalty of the sign-stealing scandal, which saw MLB dock the Astros their first- and second-round picks in each of the past two drafts.

Because the franchise is still vying for another ring, replenishing its supply of young talent without top draft picks has been extremely difficult. This makes the 2021 trade deadline quite the tightrope act for Click and owner Jim Crane.

It’s reasonable to believe this year will be the Astros’ best chance to win another World Series for the foreseeable future. Carlos Correa is a free agent after the season and it will be an uphill battle for Crane to re-sign him. Although it’s of Crane’s making that Correa is an impending free agent, the situation could compel the billionaire owner and his GM to spend substantial prospect capital, despite not having a lot to spend.

Additionally, Click has iterated that the luxury-tax threshold will not be an obstacle, expanding the number of possible trade targets.

The Astros’ biggest area of need is the bullpen, and though relievers typically do not possess significant trade value, premium late-inning arms such as Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel will likely require a top prospect or two. Various reports and rumblings on Twitter have linked the Astros to the eight-time All-Star, who has a 2022 club option worth $16 million.

Another big name on the trade market, Marlins outfielder Starling Marte, could also wind up in Houston. The Astros reportedly inquired about the former All-Star’s availability. Interestingly, at age 32, Marte is amid a career year at the plate. He is a free agent after the season.

Yesterday, the Twittersphere was rife with intrigue as a rumor connected the Astros to Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The veteran righty is in the last year of his contract but he would certainly command a haul of value in a trade, which could decimate a farm system still in recovery.

This leads to the question that could go unanswered up until the July 30 deadline: How far are the Astros willing to go in their pursuit of another championship?