The Houston Astros are in a unique position as the MLB trade deadline approaches. For the first time in years, the Astros are not in a position where they have to sell off their top talent in the majors to replenish their farm system. In fact, the Astros shouldn’t do anything remotely close to selling off their top talent unless they are blown away with an offer they cannot refuse. There are a few players, however, the Astros should consider moving if they want to make a couple of moves.
The Astros spent significant money in the offseason for the first time since new ownership took over. Unfortunately, not all of that spending has translated into much success on the field. The Astros have improved this year as they continue to bring up their young talent from the farm system while they slowly shift their major league club into position to start winning games. None of their younger talent should be for sale, but the players the Astros paid for via free agency should all be up for grabs.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has quite a bit of bullpen help to trade away if he can find the right deal from another team. Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jesse Crain and Jerome Williams should all be available from the Astros roster. Albers, who has been hurt for majority of the year, and Crain, who has yet to pitch for the Astros this season, could both be traded because of their history of success if they ever get healthy. At this point, if the Astros don’t take any offer they could get for either player, they could just hold onto them and see what kind of second half the team has in terms of winning.
Williams has been roughed up this year. His struggles with the Astros don’t mean there isn’t a team out there looking for an extra arm that can give them innings in their bullpen. Williams wouldn’t fetch much, but the Astros would be wise to take anything they can get for the righty. He has the ability to be a spot-starter for a new team or come in for long-relief.
Qualls is the interesting name here. He may not gather a whole lot in terms of prospects, which is all the Astros should be trading for, but he could be very valuable for a contending club. Qualls is sporting a 1.91 ERA in 28 innings. His strikeout rate is up from the last few seasons and his walks are down. Hitters are only batting .236 against the right-hander who has converted nine of his 11 save opportunities.
He is, by far, the most reliable arm in the Astros’ bullpen. With the Astros nearly 10 games back from the second Wild Card spot, they should unload Qualls while his value is high. It is not crazy to think they could land a B-prospect just a few years away from being major league ready.