The Astros Have Multiple Interesting Trade Candidates

If the Houston Astros are unable to rebound, they have multiple players that could represent intriguing trade candidates.

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 01: Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) returns to the dugout in the top of the first inning during the MLB game between the Cleveland Guardians and Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 1, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In 2019, the Washington Nationals started the season 19-31, only to turn their season around and win 93 games, ultimately capturing the first World Series title in franchise history at the expense of the Houston Astros.

Five years later, it’s the Astros who will try to turn a disastrous start to the season into a rallying cry for a deep postseason run of their own. But if a poor start proves to be too big of a hole for the best team of this era to climb out of, Houston has a slew of interesting trade candidates that could make them the most interesting club to watch in advance of the July 30 trade deadline.

Second-year general manager Dana Brown may only be willing to consider trading impending free agents, in which case he’ll still have plenty to work with. But if the Astros decide that they need to take a step back after being all-in for a prolonged stretch, there are even more pieces that would be of interest to other teams and could help Houston to reload a farm system that had just one top 100 prospect entering the season, according to Just Baseball’s Aram Leighton.

Players Who Can Potentially Become Free Agents After The Season

RHP Justin Verlander: There’s something to be said for the three-time AL Cy Young Award winner finishing his career in Houston, but the Astros already let him out the door once, so why are we to believe they wouldn’t consider doing so a second time if it was what’s best for their long-term future?

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Verlander is 41 years old, but still could be the best starting pitcher available on what projects to be a very weak trade market.

The former AL MVP has a $35 million vesting option for the 2025 season if he pitches 140 innings this season, which is hardly a guarantee considering he opened the year on the injured list. If the option vests, though, the New York Mets will be on the hook for $17.5 million of it. That figure would be more than fair for Verlander next season, which may make the Astros more inclined to keep him. But the possibility of only owing Verlander $17.5 million, if anything, in 2025 might make him even more coveted as a trade candidate.

3B Alex Bregman: While the two-time All-Star has gotten off to a slow start in 2024, one would think his results will improve. If the Astros aren’t in contention, Bregman will be one of the top overall trade candidates this summer.

Bregman has spent his entire nine-year career with the Astros. But he’s a Scott Boras client, and at a minimum, is probably going to test free agency this offseason. Typically, Boras clients go to the highest bidders. If the Astros don’t envision making a major commitment to Bregman after this season, there’s definitely some logic in trading him this summer. And you can bet that there will be plenty of contenders interested in the 30-year-old, who has 19 career postseason home runs.

The only caveat here is that if Bregman continues to struggle, maybe the Astros will hold onto him and extend a qualifying offer. Perhaps he’ll accept it, and if he doesn’t, they’ll get some draft compensation when he signs elsewhere.

Reliever Ryan Pressly: Though he has a 5.68 ERA in 2024, Pressly’s 2.19 FIP leads you to believe that better results are coming. If Pressly bounces back from a brutal start but the Astros don’t as a team, he’s a reliever with extended postseason experience that could be acquired to be a set-up man or closer.

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Yes, the Astros did sign Josh Hader this past offseason, which pushed Pressly out of the closer’s role. But that wasn’t really an indictment on Pressly, who recorded 105 saves and posted a 0.996 WHIP between 2019 and 2023. Pressly closed out the 2022 World Series, and could very well do so for another team in 2024, even if that’s not currently his role for the Astros.

One note here is that Pressly’s contract includes a $14 million mutual option for 2025, one that has a $2 million buyout if both sides don’t exercise it. The option will become guaranteed if Pressly pitches in 50 games this season.

Players You Would Be Getting For Multiple Pennant Races

LHP Framber Valdez: The talented lefty just returned from an injured list stint caused by left elbow inflammation, which certainly would give any suitors pause. But there’s enough time between now and the trade deadline for Valdez to prove he’s healthy, and the prospects of getting him for two pennant races might be enough for a team to give up some notable young talent.

The 30-year-old led the AL with 201 1/3 innings pitched in 2022, and followed that up by logging 198 innings a season ago. On top of that, he’s got extended postseason experience. Valdez’s 4.24 career postseason ERA suggests he’s been a mixed bag in the playoffs, but he went 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA for the Astros in four starts during their 2022 title run.

RF Kyle Tucker: They wouldn’t, would they?

Since the start of the 2021 season, Tucker is fourth among all players in RBIs. Seemingly, he’s the type of player you would want to build your team around, even in the event you wave the white flag on 2024. But while both Tucker and the Astros have expressed interest in continuing their relationship, he’s also a Boras client, which makes the two sides reaching a long-term deal before he tests free agency feel unlikely.

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Tucker can become a free agent after the 2025 season, and the Astros could get a haul if they traded him this summer and allowed a contending team to have him for parts of two seasons. Tucker is still only 27, and has eight home runs and 28 RBIs in his postseason career.