The Houston Astros may not be leading the AL West at the moment; for five of the past six seasons, the Astros have been the best team in their division. (Now that the Oakland Athletics are the undisputed worst team in baseball, it’s a sight to see them being the team that broke the Astros’ division championship streak.) Nonetheless, the Astros have as complete of a team as there is at the moment in baseball, putting them in prime position for a strong second half of the season especially as we inch closer to the MLB trade deadline.
In fact, the Astros recently welcomed Jose Altuve back into the lineup, yet another perennial All-Star to add to their lineup alongside the likes of Yordan Alvarez and Alex Bregman. As if that wasn’t solid enough, the Astros boast four solid to great starting pitchers in Framber Valdez, Hunter Brown, Cristian Javier, and Luis Garcia while Ryan Pressly, Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Bryan Abreu have been shutdown arms off the pen.
Simply put, the Astros don’t necessarily have to swing for the fences when it comes to the additions they ought to make prior to the MLB trade deadline. They do have one glaring hole in particular in their lineup which may require an upgrade, but other than that, the Astros are as set a team as anyone to mount yet another deep playoff run come October.
With that said, these are the two early trade targets the Astros must set their sights towards with the trade deadline less than two months away.
During the Astros’ impressive run to winning the 2022 World Series, everyday catcher Martin Maldonado’s intangibles came to the forefront. Maldonado has never been a plus hitter, so it’s a testament to his leadership, ability to prepare for the opposition, and stellar defense behind the dish that he has remained an invaluable member of the Astros squad.
Nevertheless, Maldonado has been a net negative thus far for the Astros this season, having posted a -0.6 WAR (per FanGraphs) at the time of writing. Given Maldonado’s age (36 years old), it’s hard to envision him providing enough intangibles to offset his less-than-ideal output on the plate. Thus, it might be high time for the Astros to pursue an option at catcher who provides intangibles similar to that of Maldonado’s all the while being a much more proficient hitter.
Enter Salvador Perez.
Perez may no longer be the presence at the dish he once was; his defensive metrics have undergone a steep decline over the past two seasons. In that regard, he is not an upgrade over Martin Maldonado. But Perez can hit the cover off the baseball, which isn’t something that could be said for the incumbent Astros catcher.
Perez has put up a .282/.316/.512 slash line thus far this season for the 18-42 Kansas City Royals, so expect there to be plenty of trade rumors involving the 2015 World Series-winning catcher. Perez must consent to any prospective trade, but it’s difficult to imagine the 33-year old backstop turning down an opportunity to contend for another World Series title.
The problem may be that the Astros won’t have enough prospect capital to entice the Royals in a potential deal. The Astros have graduated a lot of quality prospects in recent years, effectively gutting their minor-league system. Nevertheless, if Salvador Perez demands a trade to a contending team like the Astros, the Royals won’t have too much leverage in a trade anyway.
How’s this for a fun twist in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rivalry with the Astros? Sure, Justin Turner is no longer with the Dodgers, but surely his allegiance remains with those he went to war with in Dodger Stadium. Turner would surely feel the ick if he ever dons an Astros uniform especially after how the 2017 World Series turned out.
But the Astros, to become a more complete team, need an upgrade at first base; Jose Abreu, after a strong season with the Chicago White Sox in 2022, has struggled all season long, slashing a ghastly ..214/.276/.264 en route to a team-worst -1.2 WAR per FanGraphs. In fact, he began the first 51 games of the season without hitting the ball out of the park.
Justin Turner hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with the Boston Red Sox, but Turner has extensive postseason experience, and he’ll be a huge boon to the Astros’ bid to repeat as champion. Turner can get on base at a much more reliable clip than Abreu, and his penchant for contact will be especially helpful in the playoffs.
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