Over the past week, the Houston Astros have been in the spotlight mainly because they started out the week with a series against the New York Yankees before moving onto play the Arizona Diamondbacks for a three-game series that started last night.
Since the Astros have been in the spotlight so much and following their World Series victory last October, many people already know about the outstanding talent on the current 25-man roster and how superb the starting rotation is. In fact, you could make the argument that the Astros not only have the best starting rotation right now in baseball, but might have the one of the best starting rotations ever. Just look at Gerrit Cole's dominating 16-strikeout performance last night for proof!
However, as is the case with every team in baseball, not everything is peaches and cream and there is one particular hole, that makes you a bit worried about the Astros success moving forward, which lies at the back end of their bullpen. There's certainly talent in the bullpen, but with the track record of the relievers in the pen, you start to wonder how sustainable their performance is moving forward.
To be fair, going into his relief outing the other night, Ken Giles had put together a streak of 7 consecutive scoreless outings, which is nothing to sneeze at. With that being said, the way Giles performed last October and with how streaky he has been throughout his career, you have to wonder if that's not an area of weakness among the Astros 25-man roster. That ends up begging the question: who can the Astros target in July to help them bolster their bullpen and give them the best shot at making it back to the Fall Classic?
If the Astros decided to target a closer at the deadline, there should be plenty of options available given the landscape of the league right now and the fact that there are as many as 7 teams on pace to loss 100 games or more. Some potential trade targets include: Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals, Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds, Brad Ziegler of the Miami Marlins, or Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles. Houston did have a deal set up for Britton last July that ended up getting nixed by an anonymous party, which would make the deal extremely difficult to try to work out again, but you can never count something out entirely.
Out of that group of four closers, let's take a look at Kelvin Herrera and Raisel Iglesias, who would probably be the two best fits of the four. Herrera would give the Astros a legitimate, lockdown closer, who has experience pitching on the big stage and has a World Series Championship under his belt. So far this season, Herrera has a 0.71 ERA over 12.2 IP with 14 strikeouts. In addition, Herrera would be a rental so the acquisition cost shouldn't be too astronomical.
Behind Herrera, Raisel Iglesias would give the Astros certainty at the back end of their pen for the extended future, as he is not set to hit free agency until 2022. Over the past three seasons, Iglesias has ended every season with at least 80 strikeouts and an Opponent Batting Average Against below .230. To acquire Raisel Iglesias, the Astros would likely have to part with one of their top prospects plus a few other pieces, but it could certainly be well worth it, if it means getting back to the World Series and winning another ring.
On the other hand, the other option the Astros have is to survey the market for a left-handed reliever, something they have been missing basically since the middle part of last season. At various times since then, Houston has been linked to Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres and many thought they would make a trade with San Diego for Hand this past offseason, but that didn't end up materializing and now is even more impossible given that Hand signed an extension with San Diego this past winter.
Right now, the only southpaw in the Astros bullpen is 34-year old, Tony Sipp, who finished last season with a 5.79 ERA over 37.1 IP and has a 5.06 ERA so far this year over the span of 5.1 IP. That means that this will probably be the Astros biggest priority approaching the trade deadline. Some potential trade targets that fulfill this need include: Richard Bleier of the Baltimore Orioles, Robbie Erlin of the San Diego Padres, Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers, Brian Flynn of the Kansas City Royals, and Daniel Stumpf of the Detroit Tigers.
Of those five guys, some of whom you may not have heard of before, the most likely to move would be Richard Bleier followed up by Alex Claudio. Bleier, who is 31-years old, is under control through 2023 and would probably take a haul to acquire given that he has a cumulative 1.70 ERA over 106.0 IP, the past three seasons. On the other hand, Alex Claudio is a reliever who could probably afford to have a change of scenery at this point. During the past four seasons, Claudio has finished every season with an ERA below 3.00, but has seen his ERA balloon to 6.00 over 15.0 IP, so far this year.
Depending on how the next few weeks and months go, will depend on who may or may not be available, but the names listed above are almost guaranteed to be available in trade talks as the deadline approaches. For now, Astros fans will have to live with the assets they currently have while the front office figures out exactly what sort of game plan they want to follow, to address their biggest weakness on the 25-man roster.