The Houston Astros were dealt a grievous blow this week, as MVP candidate Carlos Correa hit the disabled list after tearing a ligament in his left thumb. Keen readers may remember that Correa injured the same thumb sliding into home on a close play in Atlanta earlier this month. The Astros had hoped that simple rest could cure the problem; now they’ll be without Correa’s superstar services for six to eight weeks.
Make no mistake: Losing a player of Correa’s caliber would be a tough blow for any team. But don’t expect the Astros to panic. After all, they currently enjoy a 15.5-game lead in the AL Central division. What’s more, the Houston roster is stacked with elite depth. Powerful utility man Marwin Gonzalez figures to receive more playing time with Correa out, and young third baseman Alex Bregman is a capable shortstop in his own right. In addition, the team called up top infield prospect Colin Moran from AAA Fesno to help weather Correa’s absence.
Still, the Astros front office will leap at any opportunity to improve their team via trade as long as the price is right. Recent indications suggest that it might be. Consider the Arizona Diamondbacks, who recently landed an elite bat in Detroit Tigers outfielder JD Martinez for three fringe prospects who are all years away from the majors. If that’s the going rate for a solid outfield rental bat, Houston could pounce on Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets, or Howie Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies. All three of those players would improve upon the production offered by Carlos Beltran and Nori Aoki in left field this year.
The Astros could even look to add a first baseman, which would allow them to shift Alex Bregman to short and slide Yuli Gurriel across the diamond to play third base. Marwin Gonzalez could then become the ‘Stros’ everyday left-fielder, and Houston could pursue Yonder Alonso of the Oakland Athletics, perhaps the best bat still available on the trade market. Sure, Correa is due back before the end of the season, but having too many quality bats heading into the playoffs would be a good problem to have.
Alternatively, GM Jeff Luhnow could place his faith in his position player depth and use his deep farm to go out and acquire an ace starting pitcher or a lights-out reliever. Or he could swing deals for all of the above! It’s trading season in baseball – anything can happen.
McHugh Due Back, Keuchel Close Behind
Rehabbing Astros starter Collin McHugh is set to rejoin the big league squad on Saturday. He’ll push a struggling Joe Musgrove into the bullpen for the time being. Meanwhile, staff ace Dallas Keuchel is nearing his own return – Keuchel threw 45 pitches in a minor league game on Monday, and reported no discomfort.
At 40 years old and playing in his twentieth major league season, Carlos Beltran is unquestionably the elder statesman of this young Houston team. Lots of things can change in twenty years. Once a three-time Gold Glove winner in the outfield, Beltran has largely been relegated to DH duties for the ‘Stros this year over concerns about his declining glove work. Naturally, this hasn’t escaped the notice of his younger teammates, who held a mock funeral for Beltran’s glove in center field before Monday’s game. (Fortunately, that didn’t prevent Beltran from making a nice running grab upon his return to the outfield in Wednesday’s game.)
Elsewhere in Baseball
You may know the New York Yankees as the insufferable winners of a whopping 27 World Series. They’ve hit a bit of a dry patch, though – their last world championship came back in 2009, and the team has hovered around .500 for most of the last five years. The Yankees are acting like those days are over – Tuesday marked a thrilling return to villainy for New York. The Bronx Bombers netted three different players in a major trade with the Chicago White Sox, and here’s the kicker: All three were highly coveted by the Boston Red Sox, New York’s biggest rival. That’s the sort of monstrous turpitude that gave the Yankees their place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest villains – right alongside luminaries like Dracula and Cruella de Vil. Well played, Yanks.