Posted on December 4, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Dallas Keuchel

Image via usatoday.com

Following the reported signing of Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Houston Astros figure to be done improving their lineup this offseason. In addition to Beltran, the Astros have also traded for Brian McCann and signed free agent outfielder Josh Reddick, moves that give them arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball. It now appears that the Astros are ready to stop adding to their lineup and start focusing on improving their starting rotation, as the Winter Meetings get underway.

The Astros have already worked to address their rotation this offseason by signing Charlie Morton. However, unless they believe Dallas Keuchel will have a bounce back year in 2017, Houston is still without a true ace in its rotation, as the team’s contingent of starters does not measure up to the rotations we saw in the postseason in 2016.

Astros owner Jim Crane has said that the team will be on the lookout for pitching at the Winter Meetings, although he did say that all of the team’s big moves are behind them. Of course, outside of the signing of Morton, the Astros have done nothing but make big moves this winter, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll stop now.

Moreover, on paper the Astros appear to have at least seven candidates for their starting rotation heading into 2017. Adding another back-end starter will do little to help their chances next season; instead, they are in need of an impact starter. Many in baseball believe that the Astros have purposely overloaded on offensive this winter in order to give them the flexibility to trade some of that offense for a top-tier starter, and it would not be surprising to see the Astros do just that.

Of course, at the top of Houston’s list for potential starters is Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. Reports earlier this week indicated that the Astros may be among the five finalists in the Sales sweepstakes. There are doubts about whether any team will actually meet the high price the White Sox have reportedly placed on Sale, but the Astros may have the pieces to pull off a trade for the southpaw if they are willing to part with certain players.

Shortstop turned third baseman Alex Bregman is the type of player who could be the focal point of a package to get Sale. With so many other offensive threats, the Astros can afford to part with him, especially knowing Yulieski Gurriel could play third base, a more comfortable position than first base, where he’s currently penciled in to start. George Springer could even be a trade candidate with Houston adding Reddick and Nori Aoki to the outfield this winter. The Astros also have a few intriguing prospects like Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley, who are years away but have high ceilings, as well as Francis Martes, Colin Moran, Teoscar Hernandez, and A.J. Reed, who are big league ready.

If they don’t get Sale, the Astros could also look to engage in trade talks with the Tampa bay Rays, who we expect to be active on the trade market with the Winter Meetings upon us. The Astros reportedly like Chris Archer, who could potentially be the ace of their staff. The Rays may also be open to trading Jake Odorizzi or Drew Smyly for the right price, both of whom would be assets to Houston’s rotation.

As it stands now, the Astros have a roster that could compete among the best in the American League. However, it’s tough to deny that Houston’s rotation could use a top-flight starter. Even after all of their big moves already this offseason, the Astros may still be able to add a frontline pitcher to their rotation, making them a team to watch closely at the Winter Meetings.

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