By all accounts, the trade deadline this year was a dud, and this winter’s free agency class will be too. With a lack of any elite-level player available, it was a seller’s market and the most significant prospect to change teams was Eloy Jimenez, who was shipped to the White Sox for Jose Quintana. Unless you’re the White Sox, it was a pretty bad year to be a bad baseball team.
That isn’t to say, however, that there weren’t winners on the deadline. The Dodgers made a flurry of late moves to bolster their rotation and bullpen, the Yankees added Sonny Gray, a player they control until 2020 and the Cubs got Joe Smith along with Quintana. While these three teams got better, there is one franchise that has legitimate World Series aspirations who couldn’t strike a significant deal and that’s the Houston Astros.
For the trade deadline, the Astros only made one trade, acquiring left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays for outfielder Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez, their No. 9 prospect. The Astros plan to use Liriano as a bullpen arm, but in case you haven’t seen the 33-year-old pitch this season, it’s been a pretty rough year, though he has maintained his velocity and is still tough against left-handed batters. Liriano will basically be the Astros LOOGY.
Ace Dallas Keuchel just came back from the disabled list and didn’t look 100 percent in his first game back while No. 2 pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. is on the disabled list himself. Houston has one of the better rotations in baseball, but it’s incredibly difficult for any team to win when their top two pitchers are injured. Not to mention how important it is to have as many frontline starters are possible during the postseason.
What hurt Houston, however, are two things: there were only two great arms available during the deadline (Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray) with four teams really in the race to acquire them (along with Texas, the Yankees and the Cubs) and both of those pitchers happened to belong to rival clubs in the AL West, presumably making them more expensive to acquire for Houston compared to the other teams.
One option out of the AL West that Houston was tied to in some capacity was Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, a player General Manager Jeff Luhnow is knows well as he was a part of St. Louis’ front office in 2008 when Lynn was drafted in the first round. However, it appears a trade just never materialized and Lynn, who is in the final year of his contract, was not traded.
Houston isn’t a bad team by any stretch, and an August deal could happen (though it will be harder given where they stand on the waiver wire), but the Astros simply did not get better while their competition improved their roster for a postseason run. With McCullers on the disabled list along with George Spring, Carlos Correa and Will Harris, the Astros are just 9-7 since the All-Star break and these next few weeks are going to be a true test of the team’s overall depth. If they struggle – either now or in October – is could light a fire under Luhnow, who has been a rather quiet player during the trade deadline in recent years.