As I write this, we are less than 48 hours from the trade deadline and the action still hasn’t really gotten started. We’ve seen some whispers and a couple of decent-sized deals the last couple days in Taijuan Walker going to Toronto and Tommy La Stella heading to Oakland, but for the most part it’s been quiet on the trade front. It’s possible it will stay that way given the weirdness of this deadline, and it’s also possible that things could explode today and early tomorrow.
The Red Sox, for their part, have a chance to be among the more active teams as clear sellers with multiple players that make sense to deal. Granted, there aren’t a ton of high-value players that are expected to be dealt, but some smaller deals could certainly be made between now and Monday afternoon. In fact, we’ve heard rumors of a couple potential deals, with the Rays reportedly showing some interest in Christian Vázquez while the Astros are apparently interested in Matt Barnes. It’s the second pairing I want to focus on today.
The Astros are clear contenders and have a very strong hold on a playoff spot right now, which everyone expected, but they aren’t exactly in the position they hoped to be. After a slow start to their season that also saw Justin Verlander go down with injury, Houston has rebounded a bit but still sits behind the A’s in the division. The AL West title isn’t all that important in this expanded playoff field, but it does hurt with seeding. More important than that, though, would seemingly be simply solidifying the roster as much as possible ahead of the postseason.
That brings us to Barnes. We say it every year and we’ve certainly said it a bunch this year but it bears repeating: Every contender can use bullpen help. There are so many reliever spots, particularly this year, that an extra reliever or two can never hurt. Looking specifically at the Astros, they have a great, established back-end arm in Ryan Pressly, and then a bunch of younger, less experienced relievers. To their credit, they haven’t been a disaster by any means, sitting in the middle of the pack in both ERA and FIP. That said, they haven’t been great either, and a team with championship aspirations wants more.
Barnes is a little bit of a complicated trade target, as he obviously hasn’t pitched very well at all this year. He has a 5.54 ERA on the year and everything has gotten worse from the last couple of seasons. On the other hand, he’s looked a bit better of late and we are still talking about a month of baseball. The Astros can look at his track record and it’s not unreasonable that they would still be interested, particularly when you factor in the ability they’ve shown the last few years to get the most out of each and every pitcher that comes into that clubhouse.
So, Barnes makes sense, and it’s possible the Red Sox could try to get another reliever onto the Astros hands as well. Again, there’s no such thing as too many relievers for a team looking to make the playoffs. Maybe Josh Taylor’s name gets thrown around for a little bit of a higher price to add a lefty into the mix. Or, maybe Houston takes more of a throw-in type player like Ryan Brasier or Austin Brice. The point is, it doesn’t have to just be Barnes.
In fact, it doesn’t have to just be relievers. While the Astros are, for the most part, a well put together team, their depth has a hole from the left side of the plate. With Yordan Alvarez out for the year, Josh Reddick has been thrust into more of an every day role. That leaves Garrett Stubbs, a 27-year-old with very limited experience, as the lone lefty on their bench. That seems like a perfect role for Mitch Moreland. Or, perhaps they don’t love the idea of Reddick in an every day role, as he is more suited to a platoon role these days. That could open up a possibility of trading for Kevin Pillar. I think that last one is less likely because they already have a right-handed outfielder in Myles Straw if they wanted to go that route, but it’s worth considering.
Houston obviously isn’t anybody’s favorite team after what happened last offseason, but where there’s a potentially beneficial trade you have to make the move. The Astros are apparently interested in Matt Barnes, and that makes all the sense in the world. That could just be the starting point of a conversation, though, as Houston has other needs the Red Sox can meet as well. Keep an eye on this possibility as the deadline gets closer and closer.