HOUSTON -- The Astros bucked the recent trend of World Series-champion slumps in the following season's first half by roaring into the All-Star break with 64 wins in 2018, second most behind the Red Sox.The star-studded rotation of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers --
HOUSTON -- The Astros bucked the recent trend of World Series-champion slumps in the following season's first half by roaring into the All-Star break with 64 wins in 2018, second most behind the Red Sox.
The star-studded rotation of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers -- all of whom were All-Stars the past two seasons -- have led the way. Houston's offense, behind a breakout season by All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman, has been inconsistent at times but is still one of the most dangerous.
After going 6-7 during a rugged stretch of their schedule in late May-early June that included the Indians, Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners, the Astros went 27-10 in their final 37 games heading into the break to expand their American League West lead over second-place Seattle.
Current status: Buyer
That's buyer, with an asterisk, heading toward the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Yes, the Astros would like to add to their bullpen and even add a bat, if they want to get greedy. But there's a strong belief in the organization that the team doesn't have enough weaknesses that would warrant an impact trade that would cost Houston some of its top prospects.
What they are seeking: Relief help
The bullpen has pitched pretty well this year, despite a few high-profile gaffes, including a few meltdowns by former closer Ken Giles. The 'pen isn't exactly a weakness, but adding another arm to a team that used starting pitchers in key relief spots in the postseason last year would bolster its chances for October success.
What they have to offer: Prospects
Even though the Astros dealt away quite a few prospects in the past two years in deals to acquire Brian McCann, Verlander and Cole, the cupboard certainly isn't bare. Houston has players at Triple-A Fresno who are blocked at the big league level, but the team is not going to allow anyone to touch outfielder Kyle Tucker or top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley.
The Astros nearly had a deal for Orioles closer Zach Britton this past season, but were rebuffed by Baltimore ownership at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Perhaps Houston can return to the O's and revisit the deal, offering some of its top prospects, including first baseman Yordan Alvarez and pitcher Cionel Perez, along with Fresno outfielder Derek Fisher and infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast