Houston Astros eyeing Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir before Trade Deadline

oakland-scott-kazmirThe Houston Astros are having a very strong season in the AL West, currently sitting 4 games ahead of the L.A. Angels for the top spot. But if they’re going to stay here, they may need some more pitching help after demoting lefty Brett Oberholtzer to Triple-A following his recent ejection. And as the Houston Chronicle reports, two pitchers at the top of their wish list include the A’s Scott Kasmir and Reds ace Johnny Cueto.

Cueto would definitely make sense because Cincinnati is going nowhere and this is a great chance for them to add more prospects. And the Chronicle believes that Cueto could be the “most attractive potential acquisition” for the Astros. Other players that Houston might pursue include Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels, Cincinnati righthander Mike Leake, Milwaukee righthanders Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, and Chicago White Sox righthander Jeff Samardzija.

With the July 31st no-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, Houston is among the contending teams looking to upgrade. “It certainly is one of those things we talk about, probably more so than other areas,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Chronicle.

General manager A.J. Hinch also discussed the matter by saying the following, which mostly downplayed trade rumors:

“Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about our rotation; we’ve got some youth in our rotation. We’ve got different styles. We’ve certainly had performances at different times. Again, I trust our guys. I like the guys we have, and if there’s an upgrade that gives us a push then we’ll address it accordingly. But my job is to believe in getting the most out of the players that we have.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati RedsDespite what Hinch says, the demotion of Oberholtzer means getting more starting pitching is a must. And the Astros wouldn’t mind adding another good bullpen player either. Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel certainly would like some extra help in winning ballgames.

“(I’m hopeful for a trade based on) what we’re doing right now and the position that we’re in,” said Keuchel. “Fully intend for the front office to make a move. And that’s not like something that’s a given; it’s just that, I know that they want to win and it’s a shared interest between the players and the front office. I just would assume we’ll probably get a pitcher based on the fact that we’re not going to run the young guns out for 200 innings. We’re going to need somebody to kind of help fill that void. Whether it’s Kazmir, Samardzija, Hamels, Cueto, whoever, we’re going to expect them to come in and help us out.”

Hamels would certainly help Houston win now, but it’s also possible that the Phillies are just using the Astros for leverage in talks with their staff ace. Cueto could be a more likely trade target because Houston wouldn’t mind having a three-month rental pitcher who’s set to become a free agent. This is a team that’s winning now and has a realistic shot at the World Series.

Kazmir also makes sense because he’s a Houston native who’s been excelling in the Majors for years. However, his production in the second half of last season (5.42 ERA) could scare the Astros if they have more options.

Whatever Houston ends up doing, they will definitely be looking to upgrade their pitching at some point in July. This team has a hole in the rotation and bullpen, and they’re too good to just leave things to chance with the current players.

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