There’s still seven weeks until this year’s Aug. 1 trade deadline, but teams are beginning to look ahead and identify their preferred areas of upgrade even with plenty of schedule left before that pivotal date. D-backs GM Mike Hazen candidly discussed some of his team’s needs last week, and Astros GM Dana Brown did the same over the weekend in an appearance with Robert Ford on Houston’s Sports Talk 790 AM (audio link). Specifically, Brown called a “versatile” left-handed bat who can play both the infield and outfield an “ideal” addition for his club.
“We’re having meetings about trade, and if we can add a bat, that would be outstanding,” says Brown. “We’re not opposed to adding another arm if it makes sense and if the deal is right, but I really feel like the pitching has carried us for the most part this season. If we can add a bat, that would be exciting. … A left-handed bat would be exciting, but any bat that can hit both sides, that’s actually good too. In terms of position, if you can get a guy that can play multiple positions, that would be great. You could give some guys some time in the outfield, give the first baseman a day, give the DH a day. Having a guy that’s versatile — that would be ideal.”
With Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley both on the injured list — Brantley has yet to even play this season — the only left-handed bat in Houston’s lineup is Kyle Tucker. The Astros also have a primarily right-handed bench, with only catcher Cesar Salazar offering a lefty stick. The disparity is plenty apparent when looking at the team’s splits. Astros hitters are batting a strong .260/.326/.437 against lefties in 2023 (111 wRC+, 10th in MLB) but have a .241/.310/.382 output against righties (94 wRC+, 18th in MLB).
Given the seven weeks remaining between now and the deadline, it’s impossible to say exactly who’ll be available that fits that description, though there are some names who seem likelier than others. For example, assuming he’s back from the injured list and at full strength by that time, former NL MVP Cody Bellinger could fit the bill. The Cubs are currently nine games under .500, and Bellinger is playing on a one-year contract.
More controllable names who speculatively meet that criteria include A’s slugger Seth Brown (controlled through 2026), Tigers utilityman Zach McKinstry (through 2027) and Jays infielder/outfielder Cavan Biggio (through 2025). Oakland’s Brown missed more than a month with an oblique strain and hasn’t gotten going so far in 2023, but he’s a career .240/.311/.483 hitter against righties. He can play first base and all three outfield spots, and the A’s are of course open to trading just about anyone. The Biggio name is royalty in Houston, but the versatile 28-year-old has been relegated to a seldom-used bench role in Toronto that leaves both him and the organization in a tough spot. The Tigers probably plan to keep McKinstry around given those additional four years of control, but they’ve lost nine straight and are now 11 games under .500, so there’s likely not much to which they’ll be completely closed off. If the Giants dip out of the race, LaMonte Wade Jr. would fit this bill perfectly, but San Francisco is only a half-game back from an NL Wild Card spot for the time being.
Of course, we’re still likely weeks away from serious trade talks percolating. Deals of significance in June are rare (albeit not unprecedented), making July a far likelier timetable for trade activity to pick up in earnest — particularly after the All-Star Game and MLB Draft are completed. As things stand, the Astros aren’t yet even fully sure as to when they can expect Alvarez and Brantley back. That pair of timetables will surely impact the urgency of this pursuit, but even with both at full strength, there’s plenty of room for Houston to add a lefty bat to manager Dusty Baker’s collection of hitters.