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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) throws seven innings as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Houston Astros 7-2 at Rogers Center in Toronto.  July 8, 2017.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) throws seven innings as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Houston Astros 7-2 at Rogers Center in Toronto. July 8, 2017.

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

After winning their second Fall Classic since 2017 last November, the Astros find themselves 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West title race. Houston is still clinging to the AL’s final wild card spot, but with the Boston Red Sox closing the gap amid a recent hot streak, it’s understandable that baseball fans in the Bayou City are feeling a little anxious right now.

Perhaps the addition of one or more stars could allay concerns about the team missing the postseason for the first time since 2016.

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Astros general manager Dana Brown has previously expressed interest in adding a proven left-handed bat to the lineup, and recently hinted that starting pitching could be the team’s top priority before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. According to a recent report from USA Today’s Bob Nightingale, Houston has been active in addressing both of these areas.

According to Nightingale, the Astros have “confirmed with the Chicago Cubs that starter Marcus Stroman and center fielder Cody Bellinger are each expected to be available.”

Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after reaching first base on a fly ball in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on April 17, 2023 in Oakland, California.

Cody Bellinger #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after reaching first base on a fly ball in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on April 17, 2023 in Oakland, California.

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Considering Stroman and Bellinger have spoken out about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, adding one of these players would create an interesting dynamic, at least from the outside looking in. But for a Houston team that faces an uphill battle in the division title hunt, both of these individuals could be the missing piece that takes the defending champions over the top.

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Given the continued struggles of Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown, Stroman would be a natural fit as the Astros’ No. 2 starter behind Framber Valdez. Stroman is 10-6 this year with a career-low 2.88 ERA—not counting his second season, when he posted a 1.67 mark in four starts—and is closing in on his first All-Star selection since 2019. His AL-best 0.5 home runs allowed per nine innings should be attractive to the Astros, who have given up the ball in 20 games this month.

The position for Bellinger, who splits time between center field and first base, may spark some internal debate given the strong play of Chase McCormick and Jose Abreu recently. But with the former Los Angeles Dodgers star posting a .308/.365/.523 slash line with 12 home runs, 35 RBI, 51 runs and 12 steals in 63 games, the 2019 NL MVP could be serious value. He also gives the Astros a bit of a security blanket if they are forced to trade MLB outfielders for a pitcher or if Michael Brantley is unable to return to the lineup.

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