While the rest of baseball slept through Wednesday’s trade deadline, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was busy locking up his team’s second championship in three years.
Houston, a team that began deadline day with the third-best team ERA in baseball, added the best pitcher on the market in Zack Greinke from Arizona as well as the struggling former All-Star Aaron Sanchez from Toronto. Greinke is a six-time All-Star with a 2.90 ERA this season. Sanchez is a reclamation project of sorts, the kind of which Houston specializes in. In his first start with the team on Saturday, he threw the first six innings of a combined no-hitter.
It’s an excessive amount of talent for a rotation that already sported Justin Verlander (2.68 ERA), Gerrit Cole (2.87) and Wade Miley (3.05) before the deadline.
That rotation complements a lineup that is second in the American League in average and third in home runs. George Springer. Jose Altuve. Carlos Correa. Alex Bregman. It’s a lineup that – paired with the rotation – makes the Astros a daunting task for any team in the playoffs.
The success of the team’s trade deadline made it the favorite in the AL. That’s not what won it the World Series in July, however.
Houston’s main competitor in the American League – the Yankees – have the No. 17 rotation in baseball by ERA. It’s the team’s one glaring weakness.
Inexplicably, and much to the chagrin of its fan base, New York stood pat at the trade deadline. By not improving their rotation, the Yankees all but handed the pennant to Houston.
It was a similar story in the National League. The runaway favorite – the Dodgers – completely failed to address their bullpen, the team’s Achilles Heel. At the time of printing, the Dodgers have 19 blown saves, tied for the seventh-most in baseball.
Los Angeles is a team on its way to a seventh-straight division title. This season may have been its best opportunity to win its first championship since 1988. Instead, the Dodgers balked at the asking price for Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez and failed to add any top talent.
The Dodgers have the pieces to give Houston a run for its money, but a lineup as deep as the Astros’ should carve LA’s bullpen apart.
Houston was the story of the trade deadline. A great lineup is now paired with the best rotation in baseball, which would’ve made Houston the team to beat no matter what else occurred on Wednesday. It was the inaction of their competition, however, that won the Astros the World Series in July.
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