There’s little doubt the Astros will make the playoffs at this point. They are firmly in second place in an American League West division in which the Rangers, Angels and Mariners are fading. The Astros could still run down the A’s and win their fourth consecutive division title, but with the top two teams in each division making the postseason in 2020, a fourth straight postseason trip is on the horizon.
The Astros have been struck hard by injuries this year, and the timing of the recovery of some of their key players could play a role in how deep they can go in October. It will also impact what Houston does at the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline – the first under new general manager James Click, whose team is in need of pitching, pitching and more pitching.
There’s probably enough offense – especially if third baseman Alex Bregman returns from his hamstring injury in September as hoped – for the Astros to compete with anyone, but on the pitching side they’ve lost 2019 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and 2019 AL saves leader Roberto Osuna to arm injuries. Verlander is throwing and could return. The bullpen has also lost veterans Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock and Austin Pruitt to injuries, as well as Joe Smith to the restricted list.
An important wrinkle to this year’s Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big-league team or the alternate site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.
Buy/sell/hold: The Astros will be buyers in an attempt to land an experienced relief pitcher or two. While they’ve acquired Chase De Jong and Brooks Raley in the past few weeks, expect Houston to be on the hunt for more arms. Their desire for a starter could depend on whether Verlander is back but adding a reliever – even a rental – will be much easier than finding a starter who’s better than what they have now. Youngsters Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor look to be keepers in the bullpen and have done a nice job, but experience is needed.
What they want: With several of their veteran relievers racing to return from injuries in time for the second half of the season, the Astros will look to add more experienced bullpen help. All-Star setup man Ryan Pressly is the only one of the nine active relief pitchers on the Astros’ roster who has postseason experience. Keep an eye on the Royals, who have two relievers with expiring contracts in Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland.