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3 Houston Astros trades to strengthen World Series hopes

Matt Johnson
Houston Astros, Astros trade rumors
Oct 22, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Astros logo is seen during the third inning of game one of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros are back near the top of the MLB standings, demonstrating they are legitimate AL contenders despite a myriad of injuries. With the MLB trade deadline approaching, the Astros will explore moves that could put this team over the top.

Houston’s biggest need is evident to the casual observer. For as dominant as its starting rotation is, fans worry when the bullpen phone rings. Entering June 6, the Astros’ relievers ranked 18th in ERA (4.17). While rotation depth has made things a little better, reinforcements will be crucial for October.

Let’s examine three potential trades that could help the Astros reach the World Series in 2021.

Houston Astros land Craig Kimbrel

Houston Astros, Craig Kimbrel
May 8, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) throws the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Houston loves having Ryan Pressly close games out. An All-Star selection each of the past two seasons, the Texas native owns an outstanding 1.54 ERA and 11.57 K/9 across 35 innings this season. Unfortunately, the bridge to reach him is shaky on its best days.

  • Houston Astros acquire: Craig Kimbrel, $3.5 million
  • Chicago Cubs acquire: RHP Hunter Brown (HOU’s No. 3 prospect), OF Colin Barber (HOU’s No. 7 prospect) and RHP Bryan Abreu

There would certainly be some reservations about a Craig Kimbrel trade. For one, he is likely to hit the open market this winter thanks to his vesting option. Furthermore, he will still be owed approximately $8 million in the second half of the season and that doesn’t even include the team buyout when the year concludes. That’s why the Astros would need cash sent to them in the deal.

If the Cubs are willing to do that, which they should given the benefits of a better return, the Astros will be on board. Kimbrel would deserve to close games, his 46.9% strikeout rate, .097 BAA and 0.59 ERA is superior to Pressly. While Pressly might not love it, he’s already scheduled to make $10 million next season and he would reclaim the job that year. Putting these two together, the Astros’ bullpen offers scary potential.

Paul Fry provides needed left-handed reliever

Houston Astros, Paul Fry
Jun 11, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Paul Fry (51) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros don’t have many options when Dusty Baker wants to call upon a left-handed reliever. Brookes Raley, who has appeared in 36 games this season, has been unlucky (5.93 ERA vs. 2.80 FIP), is the only southpaw in the pen with 10-plus innings pitched. That’s simply not enough.

Paul Fry is an ideal target for Houston. With the Baltimore Orioles not contending within the next two years, there isn’t a huge need for an electric reliever who turns 29 before the MLB trade deadline. That makes Fry, who is under team control through 2024, the perfect left-handed reliever for Houston to pursue.

  • Houston Astros trade: RHP Tyler Ivey (HOU’s No. 8 prospect), OF Zach Daniels (HOU’s No.11 prospect) and INTL bonus pool money
  • Baltimore Orioles trade: Paul Fry

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The fastball-slider combo is extremely effective for Fry. He is striking out 31.6% of batters faced this season and holding them to a .211 batting average. While command is an issue (12% walk rate), he has allowed just three home runs across 231 batters faced in the last two years and performs well against right-handed (.292 SLG) and left-handed hitters (.396 SLG). A bullpen with Kimbrel, Pressly, Raley and Fry gets the job done in October.

Yan Gomes traded to Houston Astros

Houston Astros
Jun 2, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Yan Gomes (10) watches his solo home run during the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Martin Maldonado is outstanding behind the plate, it’s the whole reason why he still holds a job. The 34-year-old is fantastic with pitchers, is an artist with pitch framing and has the third-highest caught stealing rate (36.65%) among active catchers.

But we can’t ignore the downside of his game. Maldonado is almost a guaranteed out when he steps into the batter’s box, striking out in 31.4% of his plate appearances and posting a lowly .269 OBP. In 87 at-bats with runners on, Maldonado has a .138 batting average.

Let’s compare that to Yan Gomes, who the Washington Nationals might want to move before he leaves for nothing in free agency. Gomes has a .260 average with runners on, a .333/.423/.533 slash with runners in scoring position and boasts a .735 OPS on the season.

Gomes does a great job containing the running game, but he isn’t reliable in framing pitches. While there are some slight disadvantages his fWAR (1.0) is far better than Maldonado (0.3). It shouldn’t cost much to acquire him and he’d be the final piece for the Houston Astros lineup.