The Houston Astros are currently 28-12, good for the best record in baseball as it currently stands, but that apparently isn't enough for this young squad. Not yet at least, as the Astros know to continue to compete this season and in late fall, the club needs to bolster their starting rotation.
The front-end of the rotation has performed as expected, lead by former Cy-Young winner Dallas Keuchel and 23-year-old Lance McCullers, but surprisingly the Astros own the second-best team ERA in all of baseball right now — 3.49 on the season. Houston may own one of the league's best staffs, but the reality of the situation is that most of these pitchers are outperforming expectations, and it would silly for A.J. Hinch and his club to assume these kind of results could be counted on throughout the entire season and into the playoffs.
The Astros have made it no secret, they want another arm to pair with Keuchel at the front of their rotation, being constantly linked the White Sox for Chris Sale and now Jose Quintana, rumors of Houston being the favorites to trade for Tampa Bay's ace Chris Archer have come and gone, and the same could be said about Oakland and Sonny Gray.
Obviously, Houston is extremely active in their search for another All-Star-caliber pitcher that can help Houston achieve their championship hopes, and it sounds like they may have found their target.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Astros have turned their focus to the Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, who is under team control thru 2019. Cole is having a solid season for the Pirates, who sit six games back from first place in the NL Central. With an 3.06 ERA, 3.57 FIP and a solid 8.46 K/9, Cole would be an excellent arm to pair alongside Keuchel and McCullers and would easily make these hot Astros the favorites to win it all this season.
However, Rosenthal expects the asking price for Cole to be rather ridiculous, something Houston has been dealing with since the offseason in regards to Jose Quintana. The Astros currently do hold the third-best farm system in baseball, according to Baseball America, so it's not a matter if Houston can it's if they want to trade for Cole.
According to the same report, the Pirates have also shown interest in left-handed reliever Tony Watson. Watson could help bolster an already dynamic bullpen in Houston. On the year, he boasts a 2-0 record, along with a 1.62 ERA, 4.82 FIP and a 1.86 K/BB ratio, as well as eight saves, in 16 and 2/3 innings across 14 appearances.
Of course, all this comes down to whether or not the Pirates decide to become sellers this season, but the loss of All-Star outfielder Starling Marte and with Andrew McCutchen continuing to struggle at the plate (.212/.288/.401), Pittsburgh has the makings of team that may try and sell high on their assets in hopes of collecting more talent for their top-10 farm system.
However, whether it is Pittsburgh and Gerrit Cole or another ace, Houston looks to be locked in on acquiring more pitching — whether it be starting or relief — before that end-of-July non-waiver trade deadline.