Astros remain in denial about potentially trading big names, at least for now

The Astros refuse to do what many expect to eventually happen, at least for now.
May 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) reacts
May 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) reacts / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros have won five of their last six games to improve to... 12-20. They are eight games under .500 entering play on Saturday. They're tied for last place in the AL West with the Shohei Ohtani-less Los Angeles Angels, and are 3.5 games behind the Athletics who are not even trying to win games.

It's been nothing short of a disastrous start to the 2024 season for Houston. Virtually their entire starting rotation is or has been hurt at some point, their bullpen has been a mess, and even some of their key regulars like Alex Bregman and Jose Abreu have gotten off to brutal starts.

The season is far from over, but the Astros will have to play some unbelievable baseball to even have a chance at a postseason spot. The odds being so low for them to make a run to the postseason makes them an intriguing trade deadline seller. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) threw cold water on that possibility.

Astros refuse to consider trading big names, at least for now

It's easier to make the postseason now than it has ever been with three Wild Card spots so it makes sense for Houston to try and make a push, but even with those three spots it's not easy to recover from a start as bad as this one.

Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays were the third Wild Card team in the AL. They won 89 games. For Houston to reach that number, they'd have to go 77-53 the rest of the way. Is it impossible for this Astros team to pull it off? No. Is it likely? Absolutely not.

Despite the short odds, it certainly doesn't sound like Houston is entertaining the possibility of selling. At least not yet.

"Owner Jim “the window will never close” Crane is not one to concede. One day that could be a problem. The Athletic’s Keith Law ranks the Astros’ farm system 27th ($) in the majors. And Crane, if he went all Steve Cohen, circa 2023, could set the deadline on fire. Interesting thought. But barring a complete collapse, 2024-25 free agents Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman and Ryan Pressly probably are safe, as are 2025-26 free agents Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez."

The Astros will only consider trading impending free agents like Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman, and Ryan Pressly if the team completely collapses. As of now, it's too early to tell if the Astros will be competitive or not. They've played some awful baseball but have been better of late and are only five games out of first place in the division.

It's in the players' hands. If they play well enough to get back into the hunt for real, there won't be a sell-off. If they fall further out of contention, it'll be impossible for Houston to not consider trading at the bare minimum players who are approaching free agency.

Selling is the last thing Crane wants to do, and he's going to put it off as long as he can. If the Astros continue to falter, he's going to have no choice but to face his worst fear and wave the white flag.