Since Ken Giles was demoted, the Astros are operating on closer-by-committee.
Since Ken Giles was demoted, the Astros are operating on closer-by-committee.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Astros Have a Few Small Holes to Fill Before the Postseason

The Astros remain one of the best teams in baseball, behind only the Boston Red Sox for best record in the majors and still five games ahead of Seattle in the AL West. It could easily be argued that the Astros are both better (on paper) than last season and still underachieving, albeit only slightly.

And all teams want to get better. The Yankees and Red Sox both improved in the offseason and are heading for a showdown in the AL East. The Mariners, despite a middling roster and significant losses, continue to nip at the heels of the champs. No one is going to hand over another World Series ring to the home town team even with their incredible run differential and obvious desire to go back-to-back.

As the trading deadline approaches, it should come as no surprise that the Astros are one of the teams rumored in the hunt for players, particularly from struggling teams dumping salary. They don't have very many weaknesses, but there are still a couple of holes they might want to plug as October approaches.

Infield Depth

They have lost little ground while missing Carlos Correa, but it is noteworthy that their main backups have not been stellar this season. Tyler White and AJ Reed haven't provided much help for Yuli Gurriel at first and, though he remains a solid if unspectacular defender, Marwin Gonzales's slash line of .236/.315/.364 is less than ideal at the plate. Having a solid infield utility player who could run the bases and pinch hit would certainly be helpful.

Relief Pitching

There is, however, no greater need than in the bullpen. Once Ken Giles was demoted, the closer-by-committee strategy went into full effect. And with only Tony Sipp as a lefty out of the pen, it makes sense that the Astros would be so hot for Orioles reliever Zach Britton. The lefty was one of the better closers in the AL in 2016, but has only appeared 54 games since, his year cut short in 2017 with an achilles injury. The Astros have a deep enough farm system and the immediate need for a guy like Britton who, if he could return to his 2016 form, would make the team perhaps the most dangerous in all of baseball, as if they aren't already.

Being the champs means taking the best shot from everyone that faces you. The Astros' record is nearly as good as they were last year.. But you can always improve and they seem to be trying to do that as the trading deadline looms.

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