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Morosi: Astros, A's talks heat up over Gray

MLB.com @jonmorosi

The Astros and White Sox have spoken about trade possibilities since last offseason, if not before. But when the White Sox made two major deals this month, they sent pitchers to other teams: Jose Quintana to the Cubs; David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees.

So, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is looking elsewhere to upgrade his rotation and bullpen -- and the available options are becoming clearer.

The Astros and White Sox have spoken about trade possibilities since last offseason, if not before. But when the White Sox made two major deals this month, they sent pitchers to other teams: Jose Quintana to the Cubs; David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees.

So, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is looking elsewhere to upgrade his rotation and bullpen -- and the available options are becoming clearer.

Talks between the Astros and Athletics regarding Sonny Gray are heating up, sources said Thursday, at a time when Gray's trade value is on the rise. After an inconsistent, injury-plagued 2016, Gray has a 3.02 ERA -- and .616 opponents' OPS -- over nine starts since the beginning of June.

The Dodgers, Cubs and Brewers also have shown interest in Gray, sources say.

A's executive vice president Billy Beane has acknowledged that his organization must rebuild comprehensively, and the Astros are an ideal trade partner: Houston's farm system includes six of the industry's top 100 prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com: right-hander Francis Martes (No. 15), outfielder Kyle Tucker (No. 27), right-hander David Paulino (No. 44), outfielder Derek Fisher (No. 70), right-hander Forrest Whitley (No. 71) and right-hander Franklin Perez (No. 92).

Paulino's trade value is uncertain, as he serves an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Gray is among a select few All-Star-caliber starters readily available at this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole may remain in Pittsburgh, now that his team has won 10 of its last 12 to climb within four games of the NL Central lead.

Meanwhile, sources say the Astros have remained in contact with the Tigers about the possibility of acquiring both Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson to address the rotation and bullpen, respectively.

Verlander pitched effectively Wednesday night in Kansas City, allowing two earned runs over seven innings before a substantial audience of scouts. Wilson then blew his second save opportunity of the season, allowing two earned runs in the ninth inning.

Two significant barriers remain in a deal with Detroit: Verlander has a full no-trade clause, and the Astros would request that the Tigers include cash to defray Verlander's $28 million annual salary in 2018 and 2019.

Until ace Dallas Keuchel returns from the disabled list, the Astros' rotation consists of Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock and Joe Musgrove. Fiers leads the Astros with 100 2/3 innings this season. Peacock has a 2.92 ERA -- and .584 opponents' OPS -- since moving to the rotation in late May.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.