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Astros Searching for Rotation Assist, First Base Improve

The Astros’ latest sizzling streak has positioned Houston as a transparent purchaser heading into the July 30 commerce deadline. At 46-44 (together with 13-4 over their previous 17 video games), they’re two video games again of the division-leading Mariners and three.5 again within the Wild Card hunt. Amongst their deadline targets, per the New York Submit’s Jon Heyman, are at the least one beginning pitcher and an additional bat — ideally a primary baseman. Heyman calls D-backs first baseman Christian Walker the Astros’ most popular goal, although it’s not but clear whether or not Arizona will promote any veterans heading into the deadline.

The 33-year-old Walker can be one of the crucial impactful bats available on the market — if the Diamondbacks finally find yourself promoting. That’s removed from sure proper now. Arizona is all however buried within the NL West, the place the Dodgers maintain a commanding 7.5-game lead over the second-place Padres and a 10-game lead over the D-backs themselves. The Snakes, nevertheless, are solely two and a half video games behind the Padres for the ultimate Nationwide League Wild Card spot. They’re three and a half video games again of the Cardinals, who maintain the second Wild Card spot for the time being.

If the Diamondbacks have been to fall out of the race, it stands to motive that Walker would at the least be accessible. The slugging, slick-fielding first baseman is a transparent qualifying supply candidate, so Arizona wouldn’t essentially be obligated to maneuver him, as Walker may web them a draft decide if he turns down a QO and indicators elsewhere. However Walker is hitting .265/.337/.507 with 22 homers this season and carries a stout .253/.332/.491 slash with 91 homers in 1721 plate appearances courting again to Opening Day 2022. He’s gained a Gold Glove in every of the previous two seasons as effectively. That sort of plus offense and protection would make him one of the crucial in-demand gamers on the summer time commerce market.

That’s very true for an Astros membership that has gotten just about nothing out of its first basemen this season. Houston already launched Jose Abreu halfway via a three-year, $58.5MM contract — a transfer that underscores the group’s urgency to show issues round. Jon Singleton has batted simply .243/.339/.366 in 233 plate appearances whereas taking part in poor protection. Houston’s want for another choice is evident, and the group is clearly reluctant to provide outfield prospect Joey Loperfido any time at first base (at the least within the majors).

As for the group’s rotation, that’s been an space of want for a lot of the season — although assist may very well be on the horizon. The ’Stros misplaced each Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy to UCL surgical procedure earlier this summer time. JP France had shoulder surgical procedure just lately. They’ve seen each Justin Verlander (twice, together with at the moment) and Framber Valdez require journeys to the injured checklist. The one wholesome starters on Houston’s roster for the time being are Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown and rookie Spencer Arrighetti. Swingman Shawn Dubin made a begin towards the Twins just lately however was hit onerous.

The Astros are hoping to have Verlander again prior to later, nevertheless, and righty Luis Garcia is on a rehab task proper now as he finally ends up his rehab from final Might’s Tommy John process. Lance McCullers Jr. may be part of the workers within the season’s second half as effectively. Nonetheless, Houston starters rank twenty first in MLB with a 4.37 ERA, and that features some stable work out of Javier earlier than his UCL damage.

Even when the Astros are planning to get some mixture of Verlander, Garcia and McCullers again for the stretch run, it’s doable accidents and workload considerations additional affect the scenario. Blanco didn’t pitch in 2020, pitched simply 45 innings in 2021, 51 innings in 2022 and 125 1/3 frames final 12 months. He’s already at 96 innings pitched. Arrighetti is inside 40 innings of the 124 2/3 frames he tossed a 12 months in the past. McCullers hasn’t pitched since 2022. Garcia tossed solely 27 innings final 12 months earlier than surgical procedure.

There’s good sense to Houston including some depth and stability, even when it’s not essentially a top-tier arm who’d slot right into a theoretical playoff rotation. Doing so would reduce the reliance on at the moment injured arms within the season’s second half and safeguard towards additional accidents.

One issue to think about in any Astros commerce situations is certainly one of wage. Normal supervisor Dana Brown stated early within the 2023-24 offseason that he didn’t anticipate to have a lot monetary flexibility. Houston nonetheless spent over the winter, most notably on Josh Hader’s $95MM contract, however that solely additional raises the query of how a lot flexibility the group has this summer time.

Per RosterResource, Houston is true on the $257MM threshold for the second tier of luxurious tax penalization. There’s no main penalty for crossing into tier two — only a hike within the tax fee itself — and it’s unlikely the Astros would add one other $20MM and push themselves as much as the third tier of penalty (the place their prime decide within the ’25 draft can be pushed again 10 locations). However Houston has solely paid the luxurious tax twice beneath proprietor Jim Crane, and the group has by no means trotted out the next payroll than its present 2024 outlay. Time will inform how a lot Crane is keen so as to add, however it’s uncertain Brown and his group shall be given a proverbial clean test when purchasing this month.


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