MLB Trade Deadline: Houston Astros Set Top Teams on Collision Course for Pennant

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIJuly 31, 2011

The Houston Astros have allowed the Giants, Phillies and Braves a shot to win the NL Pennant.
The Houston Astros have allowed the Giants, Phillies and Braves a shot to win the NL Pennant.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Houston Astros are already the worst team in Major League Baseball, yet, they were the most desirable single team to trade with during the 2011 trade deadline and their moves have set the three teams they traded with on a collision course for the NL pennant.

Second baseman Jeff Keppinger was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for a pair of pitchers, Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel.

The move gives the Giants stability at second base where, throughout the season, they had platooned that position. With the Giants adding Carlos Beltran Wednesday, the Giants suddenly became the favorites to repeat as NL champs.

Until Friday night, when outfielder Hunter Pence was pulled before the start of the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers after being informed that he had just been dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The deal gives Houston back Philadelphia's two best prospects, pitcher Jared Cosart and outfielder Jonathan Singleton.

With Pence, Philadelphia finally lands the right handed hitting outfielder they highly sought after losing Jason Werth to the Washington Nationals, and with that, suddenly the Phillies were the team to beat.

Then, on Sunday morning, Houston agreed to send center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves for fellow center fielder Jordan Schafer and three minor league pitching prospects.

The move gives the Braves two things they haven't had since 2005, a leadoff hitter and stolen base runner. Bourn leads the league in stolen bases with 39 and is hitting .303 as a leadoff hitter and with the move, Atlanta suddenly is the favorite to win the Wild Card and with a solid team already could upset the Giants in the NL wild card.

In the end, the Braves, Giants and Phillies are about as closely even as you can get. The Giants regained their lost power due to the injury to Buster Posey. The Phillies got their bat back and Atlanta got their leadoff hitter with stolen bases.

All have solid pitching staffs, the Giants and Braves have bullpens and lastly, all have reason to believe at the end, they will hold the NL Pennant banner up in October, thanks in part to the Houston Astros.