If The Astros Stop Underachieving, They Could Be Terrifying

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New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom can sue for run support and malfeasance, but he isn’t going anywhere, and neither is teammate Noah Syndergaard.

All-Star infielder Manny Machado has already been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and no one in this stratosphere will remotely have the same impact.

And please, stop with absurd notion the San Francisco Giants will trade Madison Bumgarner, no matter how much the National League West race is starting to slip away.

There’s no need for a breathless countdown, because unless the likes of J.A. Happ, Zack Wheeler, Cole Hamels, Matt Harvey, Nathan Eovaldi, Kyle Barraclough, Curtis Granderson, Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Moustakas floats your boat, this could be a snoozer of a July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

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The reality is that the best player on the trade market is Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton, who missed the first 10 weeks of the season recovering from Achilles' surgery, and now is being coveted as if he’s the reincarnation of Dennis Eckersley.

The Orioles have gotten nearly as many calls on Britton - who has discovered his 96-mph fastball again by allowing three hits and no runs in his last eight appearances - as they fielded on Machado, an Orioles official said, and they expect to trade him by Sunday.

The eight teams that undoubtedly will make moves by the deadline - the Houston Astros, Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks - happen to be most aggressively pursuing Britton.

The Astros, whose closer Ken Giles, was last seen dropping F-bombs on manager A.J. Hinch and shipped to Class AAA Fresno lugging a 4.99 ERA, have the most desperate need. They’re a better team than the one that won last year’s World Series, with the finest starting rotation in baseball, and they’re not about to let a lone reliever ruin their chances of an encore. If not Britton, who they nearly acquired a year ago, they’ll get someone capable of closing. The most intriguing name could be Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, who is eligible to return Aug. 4 from a 75-game suspension for domestic violence. The Jays are shopping him, would the Astros or anyone else touch him?

The Cubs, the 2016 World Series champs with three consecutive NLCS appearances, may be in first place in the NL Central, but are leaking oil. Closer Brandon Morrow is on the DL with biceps inflammation and $126 million starter Yu Darvish hasn’t pitched since May 20.

The Cubs are trying to acquire Britton along with Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, and in the meantime, are keeping an eye on Texas Rangers veteran Cole Hamels.

Yet, no one is lighting up Rangers GM Jon Daniel’s cell phone with Hamels struggling through the worst month of his career, yielding a 10.22 ERA, making it past the fifth inning just once. He’s just 2-4 with a 5.51 ERA in his last nine starts, yielding 10 homers.

Hamels, according to several baseball executives, epitomizes the woefully thin starting pitching market, and why there could be just as many trades consummated in August than July. No one had a bigger impact in last year’s trade market than Justin Verlander, and he cleared waivers, acquired by the Astros just minutes before the Aug. 31 playoff-eligible roster deadline.

Considering Hamels still is owed the remainder of his $22.5 million salary this season, with a $20 million option or $6 million buyout, he’ll easily pass through waivers, too.

Simply, unless the Tampa Bay Rays trade Chris Archer, who is owed just $24 million through 2021 after this season, no team is willing to unload any top prospects for any of the available starters.

And this market is filled with teams more flawed than the players available: Who knows whether the Pirates, Cardinals, Giants and Nationals will determine if they’re buyers, sellers or innocent bystanders?

What do you do if you’re the Nationals, the most underachieving team in all of baseball?

This is a team that should have left the NL East in the dust, just as they’ve done the last two seasons, even beating everyone to the trade deadline by grabbing Kansas City Royals closer Kelvin Herrera five weeks ago. Yet, here they are today, 49-50 and gifting a division title shot to two teams - the rebuilding Phillies and Braves - who had few delusions they'd win this year.

If someone was running away with the division, the decision would be easy for the Nats to shop Gio Gonzalez in this woefully thin starter’s market. They could, dare we say it, even listen on proposals for Bryce Harper. But now they’ve got no choice but to sit back and hope something wakes them up before it’s October.

The Pirates, who certainly envisioned they’d be sellers once again, suddenly have to shift gears now that their players have double-crossed them and won 10 consecutive games. They may not be buyers, but they can’t be sellers. Can you imagine where this team would be if they still had ace Gerrit Cole?

The Giants, who had a trade worked out last winter to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, only to be rebuffed, are trying to stay below the luxury tax to bid for Harper in the winter. They remain on the fringe of the division race, are in the middle of the wild-card race, and badly need a right-handed bat like Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Yet, to jump into the trade market, they insist they need to shed a contract. They are shopping right fielder Hunter Pence and packaging him with a prospect to shed Pence’s $18.5 million salary. If they fall out of the race in August, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and pitchers Sam Dyson and Derek Holland could be on the move.

The Cardinals signaled last week they were making a run for the playoffs by firing manager Mike Matheny, but when your bullpen yields a higher ERA (8.69 ERA) than the Cubs’ position players (5.79) in the second half, maybe this just isn’t your year. The Cardinals, with the exception of trading first baseman/DH Jose Martinez to an American League team, will stand pat for now, though a bullpen housecleaning is inevitable if they fall out of contention.

So, get ready for a talent-starved trade deadline, fueled by wild and zany rumors, with an occasional dose of reality mixed in.

The Yankees, who have watched ace Luis Severino yield a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts, know they can’t survive without a starter. The Astros won’t win the World Series without another back-end reliever. The Brewers need an arm to hang with the Cubs. The Cubs need an arm to hang with the Dodgers in October. The Red Sox need an infielder. The Phillies (right fielder and shortstop) and the Braves (starter and third baseman) need to keep an eye on one another. The Nationals need a mirror.

It’s a trade deadline without any headliner acts, but the garage bands can be rather entertaining.

Enjoy the show.

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Related slideshow: Every team's biggest need at the trade deadline (Provided by Yardbarker)

Source : http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/msn/mlb-trade-deadline-on-zach-britton-8-teams-definitely-buying-and-contenders-needs/ar-AAAmKDj

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