With Monday’s baseball trade deadline at hand, a major question must be asked by all: Do the Houston Astros need a starting pitcher?
All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. had his fourth straight poor start in a 13-1 loss to the Tigers. He has a 9.64 ERA in four July starts, including 32 hits and 11 walks in 18⅔ innings pitched. His strikeout rate of 29.1 percent entering the month has plummeted to 15 percent and batters have hammered him for a .386 average.
Here’s what the Astros have to decide between now and Monday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline: Could this be only a little slump for McCullers, something he’ll resolve over the next two months? Or could this be a sign of the young pitcher hitting the proverbial wall at 100 innings after throwing just 81 last year? To make this decision even more of an issue for the Astros front office, staff ace Dallas Keuchel just returned from a lengthy stint on the disabled list and pitched three very shaky innings in his first start back.
Even with Mike Fiers pitching so well after a shaky start — he has a 2.74 ERA over his past 13 starts — general manager Jeff Luhnow now has to be concerned about his rotation. To be honest, he doesn’t know for sure what to expect from his one-two punch the rest of the season and in the postseason. It’s been a different tale over the first four months of the season, as the starters had a 3.49 ERA in April and May, but that has jumped to 4.75 in June and July.
Due to the fear of this great unknown, I believe that Luhnow makes a deal for a starter. He doesn’t have to be in the Sonny Gray sweepstakes. He could opt for a rental such as Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish or dependable right hander Lance Lynn to provide a strong alternative for October. Besides uber-prospect Kyle Tucker, the Astros had three other top prospects in the well, as well as hard-throwing Francis Martes. There’s enough talent for the Astros to make a trade and keep the talent pipeline flowing. What deal will Luhnow make, if any? We shall soon see.