The MLB trade deadline is one day earlier this year because you can’t expect GMs to work on a weekend, right? July 30th is the day this year that teams will have to decide if they want to be buyers or sellers or just do nothing. The Astros have one of the best records in the American League at 54-34. Despite no Justin Verlander or George Springer this year, the Astros are doing just fine. According to Sports Betting Dime, the Astros are favorites to win the AL West this year. But adding more players wouldn’t hurt.
They have the best offense in baseball. When healthy, the Astros starting pitching staff is six-deep with others waiting in the wings. If you had to pick one weakness, it would have to be the bullpen, outside of Ryan Pressly, and recently Ryan Stanek and Blake Taylor. The rest have been hit and miss. Bryan Abreu and Joe Smith have returned from the IL. GM James Click hinted that even with all the players set to return from the IL, it would not alter their plans for the trade deadline per Mark Berman. They are in contact with all 29 teams. They are trying to win the World Series in 2021 and add the necessary pieces.
GM James Click on @SportsTalk790 says while the #Astros have the potential of having a number of pitchers returning from the IL, that’s not affecting how they approach the trade deadline: “We’re actively on the phone with the 29 other teams trying to see what we can do to put…” pic.twitter.com/drgmOobbsH— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 4, 2021
This isn’t the same punch you in the face bullpen without a closer ala with Ken Giles before the Roberto Osuna trade (sorry I mentioned that). Click doesn’t have to go out and get a closer, to close. But that closer could be a setup guy to Pressly! Wow, have the tables turned on all you who thought Pressly could not be a closer. Pressly is the only Astro pitcher on this year’s All-Star squad, and it’s his second time on the squad. One exciting name I will be focusing on this month is Taylor Rogers from the Twins. He only has one more year of team control past 2021 but is one of the best lefties in the game.
What about the Luxury Tax Threshold?
Jim Crane has been saying all season that they don’t want to go past that line. After all, that’s why the Astros didn’t go out and get a center fielder this offseason, but Myles Straw has learned on the job. But, with the trade deadline approaching, according to RosterResource, the Astros current projected payroll is $213 million. The luxury tax threshold is $210 million, meaning the Astros don’t have much wiggle room for making trades at the deadline.
As discussed in today’s Locked On Astros podcast, Click discussed on SportsTalk 790 what Crane told him when trying to make trades. Crane told him not to worry about staying under the luxury tax threshold to improve the team for a World Series run. Meaning, Click doesn’t have to limit himself to add a reliever or two, making only $7 million combined.
So how much are Click and Crane willing to pay?
One thing that Click also said, “if we’re going to go over, we’re going to go way over!” This has Astros Twitter abuzz, and we discussed the ramifications of going over the threshold on Locked On Astros. They would have to be willing to take on the 30% tax as a second-time payor. If the Astros went over $230 million, though, there would be an extra surcharge.
As a second-time offender, the Astros would only get a 4th round pick (Comp Round B pick) on a player who declines a qualifying offer this off-season. If they sign a player who had declined a qualifying offer, they would have to forfeit their 2nd and 5th highest draft picks (only 2nd highest) as well as $1 million ($500k) in the international salary pool (if they don’t go over the threshold).
Does that mean the Astros will go out and get Craig Kimbrel and Rogers? No, the Astros still have to find a team that wants their prospects for the players they want. Rumor is that the Cubs want a top prospect for Kimbrel and the Astros seem willing to trade the future for the right players. That’s the balance Jeff Luhnow tried to find. Now it’s Click’s first real opportunity.
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think Astros fans would have an exciting trade deadline. It still could be a flop, but it would appear that the Astros are motivated to do what it takes to get better for 2021. They will not be making any moves for average Joes, they want impact players to help this team win.