The Houston Astros are currently leading the AL West by 13 games and are not only surpassing expectations but also looking like the best team in the AL and possibly all of MLB. There is no doubt that a weak division has worked in their favor this season having lost only 8 games against AL West opponents, but when they get to the playoffs it’ll be a whole new ballgame. The fact that they will almost certainly face somebody out of a stacked AL East along with the possibility of whoever sneaks in from the AL Central (my guess is Cleveland, who did make it all the way to the World Series last season) creates a bit of a concern about their current roster. Although the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does hold some weight on team chemistry, the bottom line is the Astros will be facing teams that are on a completely different level than anyone in the AL West. The Astros don’t need to add a marquee player at the deadline with a large contract to take over a position from an everyday player, but rather just need to tweak the roster by adding some depth with the addition of some “rental” players that will only be with the team thru the end of the 2017 season. The fact that Houston still has a stacked farm system (6 players in the MLB top 100) with a current young core already at the pro level makes certain prospects expendable in order to obtain a World Series Championship this season. The following potential trades are for three “rental” players that the Astros should add to their roster to help achieve that goal without mortgaging the future or adding an unwanted long-term contract.
Astros Acquire from Athletics
YONDER ALONSO (1B/DH)
A’s Acquire from Astros
YORDAN ALVAREZ (1B/DH)
DAZ CAMERON (OF)
Alonso is having an amazing season for Oakland, who currently has the 2nd worst record in the AL and is already looking ahead to next season. Batting .314 with 16 homeruns thru 54 games, his left handed bat would be a very welcomed addition to the Houston lineup and his versatility to split time between 1B and DH would give some random days off the 40 year old Carlos Beltran who currently batting .222 in the month of June and has seen dwindling numbers as the season has progressed. Having Marwin Gonzalez at 1B, Alonso at DH and the threat of Beltran as a PH could create some huge headaches for opponents in the postseason when facing the Astros, and would put their lineup completely over the top as possibly the best in the AL (if it isn’t already).
This move works for the A’s because it involves Oakland getting 2 young prospects under team control for years to come while giving up arguably their best hitter who will be signing some please else in the offseason. Yonder Alonso was signed by the Dodgers out of Cuba last season but was traded straight up for Josh Fields at the deadline in 2016. He has a high ceiling as a hitter but not very spectacular when it comes to his defense, which will likely make him an everyday DH with the occasional game at 1B. Daz Cameron is the son of former MLB All-Star Mike Cameron and was a top prospect coming out of high school in 2015. He fell to the 2nd round where the Astros were able to nab him at the 37th pick of the draft, but hasn’t progressed as fast as Houston has hopped. A place like Oakland would be a great place for both these players to develop and eventually become everyday fixtures in the near future for the A’s.
Astros Acquire from Pittsburgh
TONY WATSON (LHP)
Pirates Acquire from Astros
FRANKLIN PEREZ (RHP)
COLIN MORAN (3B)
One thing that the Astros are lacking is left-handed relief pitching, and Watson would be an outstanding addition to their staff. Houston already has a closer in Ken Giles, but Tony Sipp is really the only LHP they have in the bullpen and that’s where Whitley fits in with the Astros. Although Watson has been the Pittsburgh closer for 2 seasons, his was far more effective and had much better number before he took on that role for the pirates. Adding Watson does give you an additional option at closer if Giles were to get injured or have a streak of poor outings, but his true value would be that of a proven left-handed arm out of the bullpen.
Tony Watson is certainly going to gage interest from many contenders until the deadline passes so it is the responsibility of Pittsburgh to get as much in return as possible for the left-hander. Franklin Perez is only 19 years old, but has stuff in the mid 90’s and is considered at this point to be either a mid-rotation starting pitcher or possibly a future closer. Perez is the #95 overall MLB prospect and sits as the #9 prospect in the Astros system which also gives team an idea of how bright the future could be for this RHP. Colin Moran is a 6’4 3B who is batting .273 with 11 HR thru 48 games in the minors this season and would be a welcomed addition to the Pirates farm system while currently listed as the #7 prospect in the Houston system. Pittsburgh will have some tough decisions to make over the next few seasons as it seems that the window of opportunity with their current core is closing fast and in order to remain competitive in the NL Central they’ll need to stock their farm system and build from within.
Astros Acquire from Kansas City
JASON VARGAS (LHP)
Royals Acquire from Astros
DEREK FISHER (OF)
FOREST WHITLEY (RHP)
The Royals will be in sell mode this summer and will also be likely losing quite a few players this offseason if they aren’t moved at the deadline or resigned this upcoming winter. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar are all everyday players who might all be gone from KC at season’s end, but starting left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas could be the most sought-after former Royal with offseason. Vargas is having the best year of MLB career and posting a 2.18 ERA along with 59 K’s in 12 starts this season and is in full “contract-season” mode. At age 34, he will get signed some place this offseason but his age could make some teams cautious about how many years he gets. If he were to get traded to Houston and win a World Series this season, it’ll certainly have a huge impact on both his resume and his paycheck in 2018. If Houston made this move it would give them the best 1-2 punch of left-handed pitching currently in the AL along with Dallas Keuchel, and sandwiched at #2 with Lance McCullers Jr. behind him makes for a very good 1-2-3 in the Astros rotation. KC currently sits 6.5 games back in the AL Central and 4.5 back in the wildcard race, so they still have a chance to compete this season but are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are 27-34 in a bad division which doesn’t look too promising for the Royals. The Royals have a few trade chips besides Vargas to help bolster their farm system, but with the season he is having thus far, Vargas is a top starter available via trade and it’ll cost any team that wants to land him.
The Royals would will get a great return for Vargas from someone, and it’ll cost Houston some top young talent to attain his services for the remainder of the season. Derek Fisher and Forrest Whitley are currently the #72 and #73 overall prospects in MLB as well as being the #3 and #5 prospects in the Astros system. Whitley is a 6’7 RHP who has stuff in the high 90s and was the Astros 1st round (#17 overall) pick in the 2016 draft. He is the #2 pitcher in the Astros farm system and would instantly become the top pitching prospect in the KC system. Derek Fisher is a former 2nd round pick that can play either CF or LF with descent offensive numbers but has great speed and a left-handed bat. He does have a high strikeout rate but at age 23 there is plenty of time left for him to develop and improve his numbers. If Fisher was added to the KC system, he would also immediately become their top OF prospect since Hunter Dozier (MLB #10 overall prospect) will almost certainly be the Royal third baseman of the future. This would be a huge haul for KC if this deal materialized and if not the Astros, some team will trade top talent to add Jason Vargas to their rotation for the rest of 2017.