The Houston Astros lineup is pretty much set going into Spring Training. Their rotation on the other hand is not.
The Astros have four or five pitchers battling each other for the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
One bigger concern for the Astros could be at the top of their rotation.
The NL Central is the one division in the National League where a surprise team can emerge and make a run into the playoffs.
The NL East (Phillies) and NL West (Giants) titles seem already locked and it is only day one of Spring Training, but then again, that is why they play the 162 game season.
That leaves a surprise contender from the NL Central. The Astros have a very young team that will compete every day. They have a decent rotation and good depth, but they lack a true ace up top to anchor the staff.
Here are some trade possibilities for the Astros to consider in order for them to be the surprise team out of the NL Central.
If the Astros end up making a run towards the playoffs this season, they will shoot themselves for trading away the only ace they have had the past decade.
Chances of this reacquisition are slim to none, but anything is possible with the Phillies nowadays. Oswalt is in the last year of his contract, unless the mutual option kicks in.
If the Phillies for some reason or another start to unravel, they could unload Oswalt and his contract. I know...I know... it is unlikely.
Let us be realistic now. The Astros want a true No. 1, but they honestly cannot afford one. They may be able to pay for a half a year rental though.
Weaver is in the final year of his contract with the Angels. There have been on going talks between both sides. Weaver says he "would love to play with the Angels for a long time."
For the first time in awhile, the Angels are probably not the favorite to win the division. Their offseason has been very intriguing, to say the least.
They traded for overpaid OF Vernon Wells and had to let go of steady set-up man Scott Shields.
If they fall in the standings early, they might think about letting one of their top pitchers go.
C.J. Wilson is a very solid No. 2 for most clubs. He is the No. 1 for Texas and would be for Houston if he was traded.
Wilson had a breakout year for Texas last year in their run to the World Series. Now with Cliff Lee gone, Wilson will have the pressure of being the No. 1 of the staff.
I do not know if Texas can have another year like they did last year. Cliff Lee was a big key to their success and newcomer Brandon Webb is another serious question mark for their staff.
Wilson is also in the final year of his deal, which could make him expendable.
Is he or isn't he a No. 1...that is the question. The past two seasons for Vazquez have been complete opposites of each other.
2009 w/ ATL: 15-10 2.87 ERA, 238 K, 44 BB, 219 IP
2010 w/ NYY: 10-10 5.32 ERA, 121 K, 65 BB, 157 IP
Over his career Vasquez has statistically been a better pitcher when he pitched in the NL. He totally blew up last year. Who knows if it was his confidence or just the pressure of pitching in the Bronx.
Vazquez is another candidate for a trade because he is in the final year of his deal as well.
The Marlins have a very strong rotation and could compete in the NL East. If they do not, expect them to unload some of their veterans like Vazquez.
Just this past week, the Reds offered Volquez a four-year contract extension. He promptly declined saying that he wants to play out this year in order to increase his value.
The Reds are another team that has a deep pitching staff. If talks start to heat up or Volquez has a down year, I can see the Reds trying to get something for him. He will probably stay in Cincy though.
The Reds are favored to win the NL Central which makes me think that they will not be pulling any blockbuster trades.
With the Reds also in the NL Central, that just makes the chances of Houston getting him that much harder.
It seems that every summer, Duchscherer is always in trade talks with contending teams.
When healthy Duchscherer could be the ace for Houston. He could be the ace for a lot of teams. The only problem is that Duchscherer seems to never be healthy.
He has only started 27 games the past two seasons. When he is healthy though, he is good. He has a career 3.13 ERA and a 2.87 KK/BB ratio.
Carpenter has been in a lot of trade talks recently. One reason is because of his contract ending after this season.
Another is the fact that the Cardinals are looking for extra money in order to re-sign Albert Pujols.
With the emergence of Adam Wainwright as one of the top starters in the league, Carpenter may become expendable.
The Cardinals may have to choose between Pujols or Carpenter. I would go with keeping Pujols.
There are still a number of quality pitchers still without a team for 2011. Among them are Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Bonderman and Doug Davis.
All three are not aces, but could definitely help out this young Houston team.
These three options are probably the most realistic at this point too.