The baseball trade deadline has come and gone and the Astros find themselves taking pretty much the same team down the stretch that they started the season with, having added only Francisco Liriano along the way. This inaction earned them a spot on several “trade deadline losers” lists, and the disapproval of ace Dallas Keuchel:
“Now that we didn’t really do too much at the deadline, it’s going to be an in-clubhouse kind of vibe the rest of the year,” Keuchel says. But that clubhouse is doing some great things as is! The Astros have a 16-game lead in the AL West, the second-best record in baseball, and are all-but-guaranteed a playoff berth already. Any moves they’d make would be with an eye towards dominating in the postseason (rather than, say, finding a temporary replacement for Carlos Correa, who will be back before the games start really mattering anyway).
Keuchel’s implication—I think? It certainly seems like he’s implying something specific—is that the Astros’ front office should have pushed harder to trade for a starter (Houston reportedly talked Yu Darvish with the Rangers, but weren’t close to a deal), or to bolster their bullpen. (Any issues certainly aren’t with the offense, which leads baseball in runs scored.) Playoff series are often won or lost based on who can start those games in-between an ace going on short rest, so Keuchel may be concerned about who else the Astros will be sending out to the mound in October, now that the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers have shored up their respective rotation. The rest of Houston’s rotation after Keuchel is hardly trash—Astros’ overall pitching ranks sixth in MLB for WAR and their starers rank seventh—but he might have a point there.
Lance McCullers has been solid when healthy but he just landed on the DL with back problems for the second time in two months, and Collin McHugh has made just two starts so far this season after missing the first half of the year with an elbow injury. It’s true that Brad Peacock has been better than anyone expected with a 151 ERA+, and that the injuries have given the Astros a chance to test out some young arms—David Paulino, Francis Martes, Joe Musgrove—that might prove playoff-ready, but apparently Keuchel isn’t prepared to count on them—and he’s willing to say so.