The Astros have been in full-on reconstruction mode since 2010, and with the fourth-worst record in the majors this season, 2012 won't be any different for them.
Houston has a number of attractive pieces that could be available to teams looking to make a playoff push including Carlos Lee, Brett Myers, Jed Lowrie and star pitcher Wandy Rodriguez.
Each of these players could and should be traded at the deadline to help bolster the Astros' weak farm system, which is ranked as the fourth-worst in baseball, according to ESPN's Keith Law.
Here are potential trade scenarios for each of the Astros' tradable commodities.
Closers are at a premium in baseball.
Around the trade deadline, teams are looking to add top-notch firemen to shore up their bullpen for a playoff run, and often a reliever can be the missing piece.
Brett Myers has the potential to be that player for a contender.
There are quite a few teams that could use his services, so let's take a look at a few possible trade destinations for Myers.
The Marlins have a new ballpark, new manager and abundance of new talent. However, what they don't have is a solid bullpen.
Myers could help to alleviate that issue.
Miami's bullpen ERA is the second-worst in the league at 4.70, and would-be closer Heath Bell has been terrible. He has a 5.93 ERA, and Ozzie Guillen has moved him in and out of the closer's role.
If the Marlins feel like they can make a legitimate playoff run, adding Myers could patch up a major weakness.
The Marlins' farm system is one of the worst in baseball, but if the Astros could manage to convince the Marlins to deal a quality pitcher like Jose Fernandez, it would be a big boost to Houston’s system.
St. Louis Cardinals
Like the Marlins, the Cardinals need quite a bit of bullpen help to shore up the shakiest part of their team.
St. Louis's bullpen ERA is 4.57, and their pen has already blown multiple games this season.
Adding Myers would give them a reliable setup man behind closer Jason Motte. Plus, Myers has the capability of coming in and giving the Cardinals multiple innings, if needed.
The Cardinals also have the farm system depth to potentially swing a deal with the Astros without endangering their future.
Jed Lowrie may not be a star, but he's drawing plenty of trade interest as the July 31st trade deadline approaches.
The Astros' starting shortstop is having a breakout season, hitting .257 with 14 homers and 37 RBI. He could be an excellent addition for a team in need of middle infield help.
Lowrie’s also more than just a rent-a-player to teams; he's under contract till 2015 and is just entering his prime at 28 years old.
Here are a few teams that could target Lowrie at the deadline.
The Tigers are starting to end an early season slump, but their lineup is still failing to produce.
A big part of that is their atrocious production at second base.
Detroit has thrown out multiple players to man the spot, and they have hit a combined .204, with just two home runs.
Lowrie would solve all of these problems.
He would provide pop in the middle of the lineup, plus he gets on base 34 percent of the time.
The Tigers have an abundance of pitching talent in the farm system—something the Astros are majorly lacking—and could sacrifice some of it to make a play for Lowrie.
Pittsburgh is having its best season in years, and entered Tuesday with a 43-36 record.
The team is young and the pitching staff is excellent. However, the offense could still use quite a bit of work, especially at shortstop.
Clint Barmes is having a rough year, hitting a paltry .205, well below what the Pirates expected out of him when they inked him to a two-year deal.
If the Pirates managed to swing a trade for Lowrie, he would be a major offensive upgrade at short.
The added bat might even put the Pirates over the top in the division race.
Pittsburgh has a number of top-end prospects and might be willing to deal a player like Starling Marte or Luis Heredia to make their first playoff push since the early '90s.
The Astros' No. 1 starter is also their most sought-after trade target.
Rodriguez is having another stellar season, and has posted a 3.54 ERA while leading a young Houston staff.
The 34-year-old is the Astros' ace and is under contract for another two seasons. He’s on the book for $10 million in 2013 and $13 million in 2014.
That's pretty reasonable money for a pitcher of his caliber, but for a team that is in full-on rebuilding mode like Houston, that $10 million price tag is a little steep.
This is why Rodriguez might be moved at the deadline.
Here are a few of his possible destinations:
The Red Sox are in the middle of a fierce division race, and their rotation is a major weakness in comparison to the other teams in the AL East.
Last week, Boston’s first-year GM Ben Cherington discussed the need for starting pitching on MLB network radio.
Rodriguez would certainly fit the bill, and would prosper at the back-end of the Sox's staff.
Boston has never been shy about making splashy moves, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox make a push for him.
GM Kenny Williams has always been aggressive near the deadline.
With John Danks out until late August, Williams will definitely look to add a pitcher to shore up the rotation.
Rodriguez would step in right away and deliver quality innings, which is key as the White Sox attempt to stay on top of the AL Central.
Expect Williams to go hard after starting pitching at the deadline to make Rodriguez a real possibility for Chicago.
The only problem is that the White Sox farm system is absolutely barren, so they would have to get very creative to make the deal.
The Blue Jays started Tuesday at 40-39 and in last place in the AL East, but it seems as if they are doing everything possible to upgrade their roster.
They need the most work on their pitching staff, because a number of members of their rotation are out with injuries.
According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Jays are going all out in their pursuit of starting pitchers, and they have been linked to Rodriguez as trade rumors swirl.
Recently, the Blue Jays have sent multiple scouts to Rodriguez's starts, and it would be no surprise to see him pitching up north by the end of the season.
This trade would have given the Astros some much-needed salary relief and given them a prospect to boot.
Instead, the Astros are stuck with Lee's waning bat speed and $18.5 million salary.
However, there is hope for the Astros.
Lee's no-trade clause is limited, which means the Astros can send him to 14 pre-approved teams.
There is no way of telling which teams are on his list, but there are still plenty of franchises that could use his services.
Tampa Bay is in need of a quality DH, and Lee would fit the bill.
He is a sure-fire run producer and his right-handed bat would work well in Tampa. The Rays have struggled all season against left-handers, with a .170/.269/.281 split, and Lee would improve those numbers.
A move to the American League would also protect Lee, as it would keep his below-average glove out of the field.
The Astros' Central Division rivals are off to a great start in 2012, but the Reds could use one more powerful bat to back up Joey Votto.
Lee is a proven veteran hitter and would fill that role nicely.
More importantly, though, he could take the struggling Ryan Ludwick out of the lineup.
The Reds don't have one of the best farm systems in baseball, but with Lee entering free agency after this season, it won't take much to pry him from Houston.
Yes, I know Lee just vetoed a trade to the Dodgers, but he could change his mind.
If you’re an aging player like he is, the chance to contend is appealing.
Maybe in a week or two he'll decide he's ready to be moved.
If that happens, LA might be willing to take another look, because they are in dire straits for a power hitter as they attempt to keep pace with the Giants.