Here's what the Astros need at the Deadline

Team looking to add bullpen help without surrendering Minor League depth

July 16th, 2018

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 , , , Charlie Morton and -- 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 , 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 . 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 , 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 or top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley.

Possible scenario

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 , along with Fresno outfielder and infielder/outfielder .