Sources: Astros eye trade markets for C, SP

Marlins' All-Star catcher Realmuto a likely target for Houston

November 16th, 2018

A World Series title in 2017, a trip to the American League Championship Series in 2018, back-to-back 100-plus-win seasons and AL West titles, a loaded roster with multiple MVP and Cy Young candidates -- and the Astros are still looking to improve.

Houston is targeting multiple areas this offseason, catcher and starting pitching chief among them. The Astros could make upgrades in free agency, but they actually might be turning their attention toward the trade front.

Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Friday that the Astros "are more active in trade discussions than free-agent negotiations." As far as the starting rotation goes, they're casting a wide net. With regard to catcher, it looks like they're focusing on Marlins All-Star J.T. Realmuto.

The Astros will need at least one starting pitcher, and they're not limiting themselves as to who it could be. One executive told Morosi that Houston is "inquiring on nearly every starter available" on the trade market.

The Astros already have maybe MLB's best one-two starting pitcher combination in and , but they could lose both and Charlie Morton to free agency, and will miss the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. That leaves the back end of the rotation more in flux. Houston has options like and Josh James, but the ballclub will be looking to add.

The catcher position is also a major need. With and hitting free agency, the Astros' current top option is , who had a hot start to 2018 but faded through the summer. If they could swing a trade for Realmuto, it would be a huge get -- the 27-year-old is one of the best catchers in baseball on both sides of the ball.

Realmuto would be expensive, but the Astros and Marlins remain in contact, per Morosi -- and Houston would be a viable destination, especially because one of the Astros' chief competitors for Realmuto, the Braves, play in the National League East. The Marlins would prefer not to deal Realmuto within the division.

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What exactly would it take to get Realmuto? A source told Morosi that the Marlins have maintained that at least one of the Astros' top two prospects -- 21-year-old outfielder or 21-year-old right-hander Forrest Whitley -- be included in any trade. Both Tucker and Whitley rank among baseball's top 10 overall prospects, per MLB Pipeline, with Tucker at No. 5 and Whitley at No. 8.