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Sources: Astros eye trade markets for C, SP

Marlins' All-Star catcher Realmuto a likely target for Houston
MLB.com @_dadler

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.

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.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Astros, in need of at least one starting pitcher, are more active in trade discussions than free agent negotiations, sources say. They are inquiring on nearly every available starter via trade, as one exec told me. @MLB @MLBNetwork

The Astros already have maybe MLB's best one-two starting pitcher combination in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, but they could lose both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to free agency, and Lance McCullers Jr. 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 Collin McHugh and Josh James, but the ballclub will be looking to add.

Video: Altuve on knee injury, McCullers' Tommy John surgery

The catcher position is also a major need. With Martin Maldonado and Brian McCann hitting free agency, the Astros' current top option is Max Stassi, 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.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: #Astros remain a viable destination for Realmuto despite the high price tag, in part because #Marlins prefer not to trade him within the division to the #Braves, who are actively looking for a catcher. @MLB @MLBNetwork

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 Kyle Tucker 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.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

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