The Houston Astros are red hot and look like a real threat to rival the New York Yankees for the American League crown. The Astros and Yankees were the first teams to 50 wins this season and both sides have serious World Series aspirations in 2022. In order to achieve that goal, addressing some areas of need at the trade deadline will be crucial.
The Astros are one of the most well-rounded teams in all of baseball. Not only are they a top-five offense in MLB, Houston also dethroned the Yankees for the best team ERA in baseball at 2.89. The Astros are getting quality outings from their starters on a nightly basis and got a further boost to the rotation with Jake Odorizzi returning from the IL ahead of the All-Star break.
Still, there are areas in which the Astros could stand to improve, and players who could be available that would help them reach their World Series potential.
With that in mind, here are three top targets for the Houston Astros at the 2022 MLB trade deadline.
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Astros Trade Deadline Targets
3. Michael Fulmer
There are a handful of Detroit Tigers relievers that could potentially be dealt at the 2022 MLB trade deadline, but among the most valuable is Michael Fulmer. A starter who converted to a reliever following an elbow injury, Fulmer has reinvented himself as one of MLB’s top relief pitchers. A contact pitcher through and through, Fulmer won’t overpower hitters with his velocity, but he has excellent control and forces soft contact and ground balls regularly.
The Astros have a strong bullpen, but there’s always room to upgrade. Fulmer would instantly step in as a solid high-leverage option in Houston. With Justin Verlander pushing 40 years old, Odorizzi having gone back and forth from the IL in recent years, and neither Framber Valdez nor Jose Urquidy having thrown more than 135 innings in a single season, the Astros may start turning to their bullpen earlier into games during the second half of the season. Preserving the arms of their top starters will be crucial, so if their bullpen is asked to eat more innings, getting a player of Fulmer’s caliber in the ‘pen would be an important move.
2. Trey Mancini
There are a number of first basemen that the Astros could target at the trade deadline, but Trey Mancini would certainly be one of the most intriguing options. The Baltimore Orioles slugger has spent his entire career in the cellar of the AL East, and a move to the Astros could give him his first taste of big-league success.
Mancini is enjoying a solid 2022 season. He’s slashing .279/.355/.428 with 8 home runs, 31 RBI and 14 doubles in 71 games. He’s hit 20+ home runs in each of his last four seasons, including a career-high 35 homers in 2019. Mancini has maintained his power and gets on base at a solid clip. Yuli Gurriel has struggled this year, logging a .672 OPS, so a move for Mancini could give the Astros more options at first base, while putting Gurriel in more of a depth role.
1. Willson Contreras
While Martin Maldonado is a solid defensive catcher, he leaves plenty to be desired at the plate. This season, the 35-year-old is slashing .151/.219/.302. While the Astros haven’t necessarily needed him to be a big producer offensively, they’d likely prefer to deploy someone who gets on base in more than 21.9% of his plate appearances.
Well, one of baseball’s best catchers may just be available at the trade deadline. Chicago Cubs star Willson Contreras may be one of the most valuable pieces on the move at the deadline, and the Astros absolutely need to be at the forefront of his market. Behind Contreras, the fall-off in the catcher market will be steep, and the Astros would be hard-pressed to find a bigger contributor on both sides of the ball.
This season in Chicago, the Cubs star is slashing .280/.398/.508 with 13 home runs, 35 RBI, and 17 doubles. He’s been a reliable force in the Cubs lineup, but has seen more time at DH of late, which could indicate the Cubs are looking to protect him ahead of a trade deadline deal. The writing is on the wall for a Contraras trade, the Astros would be an outstanding fit for the 30-year-old.