It’s July 8th, and the trade talk that’s simmered for much of the season will soon be at a boil. Others no doubt will talk more about specific players. This post means only to lay out a few principles.
- WHEN POSSIBLE, TRADE FROM STRENGTH (EXCESS DEPTH)
For much of the Luhnow years, the Astros’ strength was the farm system. You could trade Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers to get JV because you had so many other guys. The Astros cannot, to be blunt, trade Hunter Brown. They do have some 40-man crowding, and I could see them trading from their stable of bat-first catchers (Y Diaz, L Berryhill) or from their excess relief corps in Sugar Land (Paredes, Blanco, etc.. but those guys wouldn’t fetch much).
The obvious places of excess depth are CF and starting pitching. Given the Straw trade last year, I would be surprised if Click deals one or more of Urquidy, Odorizzi, McCormick, and Siri. A team like Toronto needs SP depth. McCullers is nearing a minor league ramp up, meaning they’ll have 7 starters. In the OF, the Astros think Meyers is their guy, and Siri + McCormick aren’t neat fits on the Astros’ bench.
2. KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT
Rewind to April: we didn’t know who the Astros were. How would the pitching staff hold up with McCullers on the shelf? Who would be the bridge to the 8th inning? How could the Astros cover CF and SS? Would the Astros have enough to hold off Anaheim and Seattle?
As it stands, the Astros are 13. games up in the division, and 8 games up on Minnesota for the #2 seed; they have a solid grip on a first round bye) and a stranglehold on the AL West. Unlike 2015, they aren’t trying to make the playoffs; they’re trying to win the WS. What they need are pieces who can help them more in October than in September.
3. TRADE TO SHORE UP A WEAKNESS OR TO REINFORCE A LACK OF DEPTH
This seems obvious, and everyone seems to know the Astros’ weaknesses. But do they? The one sure move they’ll make is a LH reliever. Blake Taylor just got moved to the 60-day IL and Peter Mushinski will not be trusted to retire Anthony Rizzo with the game on the line in October. There are plenty of lefties out there. (hello Andrew Chafin). Given the effectiveness of Pressly, Neris, Montero, and Stanek, plus the emergence of Abreu and the lingering possibility of Hunter Brown as MIRP, I doubt the Astros acquire more than one RP.
Catching could be regarded as a weakness. But that seems to be a point of dispute. Same with CF. Click clearly believes in Meyers. He traded Straw based on it, and he avoided the Marte sweepstakes based on it. At first base, the Astros aren’t cutting bait with Yuli, at least not yet.
The Astros biggest weakness isn’t any of these positions, it’s the bench. It’s too-right handed and it doesn’t hit. Their most consequential move, I predict, will be adding a platoon/bench bat, similar to Joc Pederson from last season. A guy who can play a little 1b, or corner OF, or who can pinch hit late in games for Maldy, Yuli, Meyers. The overqualified version of this player is Josh Bell.
4. DON’T JUST THINK ABOUT THIS SEASON; THINK ABOUT THE NEXT SEASON
Luhnow was the master of this strategy. He did the JV and Greinke deals because they were under control. The aforementioned Chafin has a player option for 2023.
The Astros likely need to replace three starters next year (Brantley, Gurriel, and Maldy). They have an internal option with Korey Lee at catcher, but nothing for the other two. The biggest weakness in the Astros system is MLB-ready bats (major injuries to Joe Perez and Taylor Jones hurt esp. on this front). Don’t be surprised if the Astros make both a trade and a *free agent signing*. A bit of speculation... If the Phillies falter without Harper, would Click make a serious push for Kyle Schwarber? He helps the Astros in 2022, and fits in as a replacement for Yuli or Brantley in 2023. He solves both present and future problems. The Phillies have a defense problem and would gain some payroll flex if they consider taking the org. in a different direction by trading a below average fielder and runner.
Schwarber may be a reach, but don’t be surprised if Clack gets creative. The Astros can stand pat and win 100 games. But the right moves can be the difference between another trophy or more October heartbreak.