Baltimore Orioles vs. Astros series preview and latest trade rumors

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 9: Zach Britton
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 9: Zach Britton /

The Baltimore Orioles, fresh off a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers, will now face another Lone Star state team in the American League-best Houston Astros.

One series helped move the Baltimore Orioles from a team that was leaning toward seller, or maybe even being a seller, to back on the fence. That’s what a convincing four-game sweep will do in the second wild card era.

But now, the Orioles will face a better test that will show if this team has turned a corner.

The Houston Astros come in as the best team in the American League, and the second-best in baseball.

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The Astros are up a remarkable 16 games over the second place Seattle Mariners in the AL West. For reference, Seattle is 48-49, Houston is 63-32. The Orioles are 46-49.

The Orioles come in with an offense that has put together three outstanding games, scoring nine or more runs in each game and achieving more than ten hits. The team is getting contributions from the top and bottom of the order, and are putting together a lot more long innings of late.

The starting pitching put together three compelling and quality starts by Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, and Kevin Gausman. Wade Miley was not as lucky, but the Orioles battled back.

The Orioles have also been buoyed by their strong bullpen, the source of much trade chatter. Miguel Castro did an excellent job in earning the win on Thursday and was followed by Darren O’Day and Brad Brach.

Zach Britton came in and was a bit wild, and also left up several ground balls to make it interesting in the ninth before the Orioles prevailed.

The Astros are currently 5-5 in their last ten games, and their star short stop, Carlos Correa, is out for the next six to eight weeks after injuring his hand, a similar injury to what Mike Trout had earlier this year.

MLB Trade Deadline: Baltimore Orioles rumors

The Astros are also missing one of their top bullpen pieces in Will Harris, which leads us to the off-the-field chatter involving these two teams.

The Astros have been placed, along with the Dodgers, as one of the leaders to acquire Britton by the national media.

Why is that? Well, the Astros’ are looking to win, and have the offense to do it. They are looking for a top of the line starter (although Dallas Keuchel should be back soon) and bullpen pieces.

Right now, the Astros are led by closer Ken Giles and Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski, who has filled the Andrew Miller multi-knife tool sort of role in the Astros’ bullpen.

The word is, however, that the Astros are looking for more. And that just might include Zach Britton.

Why do the Astros make sense? Adding Britton would provide a veteran closer to pair with to younger, less experienced pitchers in Devenski and Giles. I don’t know that Britton would be inserted as closer, but it is a possibility.

NEW: Dodgers express legitimate interest in Orioles closer

It is also worth noting that Giles has never pitched in the postseason, while Britton has postseason experience (2016 excluded).

The Astros would also make sense for the Orioles, as they have the prospects to pull off a deal for Britton.

Those prospects include several top 100 prospects:
Francis Martes, RHP – #15
Kyle Tucker, OF – #27
David Paulino, RHP – #43
Derek Fisher, OF – #69
Forrest Whitley, RHP – #70
Franklin Perez, RHP – #92

Now, you might argue that the Orioles don’t need an outfielder, so why get Tucker or Fisher?

And while I agree that the team could be set at outfield with Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, Joey Rickard, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and more, you can never have too many good prospects. And if the experts have Tucker and Fisher in the top 100, they are good prospects.

Martes, 21 is a starting pitcher currently at Triple-A Fresno, where he is 0-2 in eight starts with a 5.29 ERA.

Paulino, 23, is a starting pitcher also at Triple-A Fresno, where he is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts.

Whitley, 19, started at A and is now at Single-A, and is sporting a nifty 2.32 ERA and a 4-3 record in 2017.

Perez, 19, was recently promoted to Double-AA, where they are using him as a closer. However, he is predicted to be a mid-rotation major league starter in his early 20s.

As for Tucker, 20, he is the younger brother of Astros’ OF Preston Tucker and is currently hitting .294 between Single-A and Double-A with 17 HRs, 22 2Bs, five 3Bs, 63 RBIs and 56 runs. He also has 19 stolen bases, although as he fills out, he may not be as much of a base-stealing threat.

Fisher, 23 is the elder statesmen of the six here, and has hit everywhere he has gone. Fisher is from Lebanon, Pa., just about two hours from Camden Yards. He was a star at Cedar Crest High School, and also at the University of Virginia.

Fisher is hitting .314 with 21 HRs, 26 2Bs, 62 RBIs, 61 runs and 16 stolen bases for AAA Fresno. He also appeared in five games for the Astros this year when Josh Reddick suffered a concussion, hitting .278 in 18 at-bats with two home runs, five RBIs, three runs and a stolen bases. Not bad for a cup of coffee in the major leagues.

Fisher is a right fielder, the same position played by star George Springer. The other outfielders the Astros have, Jake Marisnick, Reddick and Nori Aoki are under contract for a few more years. With Marisnick and Reddick under contract until 2021.

Next: Orioles preparing to sell all but Machado, Jones, Givens

As you can see, there are plenty of pieces that would help the Orioles currently in Houston’s minor league system.

If the Astros bring the Orioles back to earth, Zach Britton (or another Oriole reliever) could soon find himself pitching for Houston, rather than against them.