So with just four more days until the trade deadline in Major League Baseball, seems like the obvious two winners are the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals. The Royals made the most recent splash on Sunday, acquiring right hander Johnny Cueto from the Reds, while sending three minor league lefties to Cincinnati. Cueto is 7-6 on the season, but run support being the biggest issues. Cueto sports a 2.62 ERA, which is top 15 in the game and would currently be the 6th best ERA in the AL. Kansas City already has the best team ERA in the AL at 3.43, so adding another arm the capability of Cueto really gives the Royals a distinct advantage, even with opening day starter Yordano Ventura having his issues on the mound. Ventura was sent down to the minors on assignment, before being called up the next day, because fellow teammate Jason Vargas went down with a UCL tear in his elbow and will require Tommy John Surgery. Ventura quickly turned it around after being called back up and pitched on Sunday in a head to head match-up with Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. Ventura won the battle, pitching 7 strong innings and just giving up one run. Ventura’s best start since late May and much needed for the psyche of the young pitcher. If Ventura keeps it together, with the addition of Cueto to an already potent pitching staff, it wouldn’t seem so out of the ordinary to have the Royals in the Fall Classic for a second straight season.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I mentioned the Houston Astros as another formidable contender in the trade department, as the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the A’s in return for a couple prospects. Kazmir had already made his presence felt with a win in his first start for Houston, shutting down the already mentioned Royals by a final of 4-0. Houston is tied for the 3rd best ERA in the AL at 3.51 and show no signs of that really fluctuating, by adding the talent of Kazmir. The real question though is, does Houston have enough in the tank, pitching, offensively and mentally to stay in the race and remain a favorite in the AL? Sure, the Astros are doing better than they have the past 5 years or so, currently 55-45, but the last month or so has been a trying one for the young group. The AL West was in control for most of the first half of the season, before the Angels went on a tear to overtake the Astros and lead the division by one game right now. Will it hold though? While Houston went out and got another arm to help in the postseason, the Angels have stood pat. Not saying the Angels have to do anything. Sometimes the best move, is not making a move at all. Houston went with the Kazmir deal because it bolstered their lineup, but I think it was also a necessity to get a veteran in to help this team make a push down the stretch. Someone who has been involved in postseason type environments. Kazmir has done just that. Houston hasn’t been in that position lately, so experience in big moments certainly doesn’t hurt. The Angels have a pretty veteran savvy club and should be the winner of the division when it’s all said and done, but that doesn’t mean Houston is out of it, as the Wild Card supplied the two the World Series contenders.
Let’s not forget about the AL East either. In their last 18 games, the Yankees are 13-5, now 6.5 games up on second place Toronto, so it makes you wonder if New York might be looking to pad their pitching staff. Cole Hamels, who in his last start for the Phillies, pitched a no hitter versus the Cubs and David Price, who pitched 8 innings of two run ball in his last start, only to see the Tigers still lose game, are both up on the trade block with what seems like an inevitability they won’t be pitching for their respective teams when the trade deadline hits on July 31st.
Featured Image by: Chris Murphy