The Houston Astros have been one of the more pleasant surprises in the American League in the early season. They sit atop in the A.L. West Division with an impressive 30-18 record and lead the division by a full six games over the Los Angeles Angels. It is still early and premature to declare the Astros the runaway winners of the AL West. They will need to play a continued stretch of consistent baseball over the rest of the summer to remain in the hunt for a postseason berth. It is almost a certainty at this point they will be scouring the trade market to add veteran talent to their roster in order to intensify their efforts at taking the AL West division crown. One possible trade target is Cincinnati Reds right-handed ace Johnny Cueto who is reportedly on their radar according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The Astros’ rotation is currently being led by left-handed ace Dallas Keuchel. The southpaw has been dominant through 10 starts so far this season and boasts a 6-1 record with a 1.98 ERA across 72.2 innings of work. He is backed up by some solid pitchers in Scott Feldman and Collin McHugh as well as the support of a stellar bullpen as well. In order for them to keep pace in the AL West, they may need to bolster their rotation with a proven pitcher such as Cueto. A rotation headlined by Keuchel and Cueto would be pure filth for opposing teams in the division. Cueto recently missed his last start with some elbow soreness but is expected to retake the mound this weekend so he should be good to go.
The Reds are falling further and further out of contention as they have lost 10 of their last 11 games and sit at an underwhelming 19-27 mark, already 11.5 games out of first. They are sinking deeper and deeper and more likely to be trade deadline sellers. They were already expected to be shopping Cueto around as he is entering the final year of his current contract before hitting free agency in the offseason, but their current losing streak is only intensifying trade speculation of all their assets, including Cueto. Any team would be salivating to take on a pitcher like Cueto to bolster their chances for the postseason, even if it is only for half a season. The veteran righty has continued to excel with a 3.03 ERA across 65.1 innings of work with a 0.96 WHIP so far. He would absolutely improve any team’s chances of making the postseason and the Astros are expected to be one his suitors due to their impressive hot stretch so far.
The only snag in a potential deal is the icy relationship between Reds GM Walt Jocketty and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. They have never been very close dating back to their days of working together in the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office so it will be interesting to see if they are able to come to a deal regarding Cueto as the season wears on. The bottom line is the Astros are now a team to be looking out for on the ongoing Cueto sweepstakes.
Follow Daniel on Twitter: @dsurbigapp