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Luhnow sees no need for waiver deal this year

Astros GM likes roster's makeup leading up to Aug. 31 deadline
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Don't look for the Astros to pull off another major trade prior to the Aug. 31 playoff roster deadline the way they did last year, when they acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers in the minutes leading up to the deadline.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday the club has claimed many players on waivers, which is standard practice this time of year, but that other teams have pulled the player back or the Astros haven't been able to work out a trade. Luhnow said the Astros feel good about their chances in October without making any additional roster additions.

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HOUSTON -- Don't look for the Astros to pull off another major trade prior to the Aug. 31 playoff roster deadline the way they did last year, when they acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers in the minutes leading up to the deadline.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Tuesday the club has claimed many players on waivers, which is standard practice this time of year, but that other teams have pulled the player back or the Astros haven't been able to work out a trade. Luhnow said the Astros feel good about their chances in October without making any additional roster additions.

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"Last year at this time, there was a clear opportunity to improve the team by bringing in an elite starting pitcher," he said. "There's no clear missing piece on this team this year. It doesn't mean there's not a potential move out there that could happen in the next few days that could upgrade our team. I'll be satisfied if we don't do anything, but it doesn't mean we don't continue to look for things.

"Like with most deadlines, a lot of activity happens in the day or waning hours or even waning minutes of the deadline, so we'll have to wait and see what happens. I feel really good about our 25-man roster, plus our injured players that are coming back, as well as the Minor League players we could potentially promote."

To be eligible for the postseason roster, players need to be on a team's 40-man roster, the 60-day DL, or the bereavement/family medical emergency list by Aug. 31, which is Friday. Any player who clears waivers is free to be traded to any team, which is what happened to Verlander last year.

"We'd have to be convinced that whoever we acquire is going to be an upgrade over one of the guys that's likely to be in the lineup going forward," Luhnow said.

Here's how Astros landed Verlander last August

McCann likely activated Saturday
Veteran catcher Brian McCann, who had surgery on his right knee in early July to repair a torn meniscus, rejoined his teammates Tuesday in Houston after going 4-for-22 with a home run and three walks during a Minor League rehab assignment. It's expected the Astros will activate him Saturday, which is the first day rosters can be expanded for the final month of the season.

"I got some really good work in," he said. "My knee feels better than it has in three years probably. To have the stability that I have, just showed me it was the right decision to make. I got to the point I was collapsing my front side. I couldn't be a productive Major Leaguer, so it was nice to come back and know that my knee's healthy and I can make an athletic move on it."

McCann, 34, was hitting .206 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 155 at-bats for the Astros through June 30, including .119 (8-for-67) with two homers in his final 67 at-bats before going on the DL.

"I can attack baseballs again," he said. "It was really hard for me to keep my weight balanced to where I can hit certain pitches and sit fastball and hit the changeup and vice versa."

Outfielder Jake Marisnick (left groin) and right-handed reliever Chris Devenski (left hamstring) are also expected to be activated Saturday from the DL.

Whitley on DL with lat strain
Luhnow said Monday he expects top prospect Forrest Whitley -- ranked as the No. 7 prospect overall by MLB Pipeline -- to pitch again this season despite being placed on the disabled list Tuesday (retroactive to Aug. 25) with a right lat strain. He was on the DL earlier this year with a right oblique strain after missing the first 50 games of the season for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Whitley, who owns a 3.76 ERA and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings over eight starts at Double-A, was scratched from his start on Friday due to right lat discomfort as a precaution. The Astros had hoped Whitley would reach the Majors this year, but that won't happen.

"He's young and a lot of young pitchers, especially in the Minor Leagues, have seasons like that where some combination of events, they don't get as much done as they'd like to," Luhnow said. "We still have a chance to make up for it, though, playing some fall ball and so forth.

"For him, the focus is getting in a position he can come to camp next year and impress AJ [Hinch] and the staff and everybody else and put himself in position to be a reasonable option at some point next year. That's the goal with him and I think he certainly can accomplish that."

Whitley, the team's first-round pick in 2016, is a candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League in October or get in more work during the instructional league after the season ends.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

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