Astros will be sellers, but “unlikely to trade” Hunter Pence

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Houston has MLB’s worst record at 28-51, which puts them on a 57-105 pace and all but guarantees the Astros will be trying to unload various veterans for any kind of long-term help they can get before the trade deadline.

However, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com “the Astros remain unlikely to trade right fielder Hunter Pence unless new owner Jim Crane is approved before July 31 and orders such a move.”

Pence is Houston’s best player, but he’s also earning $6.9 million this season with a hike to at least $8-9 million due in 2012 and as a 28-year-old with an .820 career OPS he’s hardly an elite hitter. Plus, even if the Astros are somehow able to successfully rebuild in just a couple seasons Pence will be 30 years old and on the verge of free agency by then.

Hanging on to Pence may help appease a frustrated fan base in the short term, but if there’s a contending team willing to pay a star-level price for Pence in trade the Astros would probably be better off in the long term if they can cash him in.

Roberto Osuna to be the Astros new closer

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When the Astros acquired suspended reliever Roberto Osuna it was viewed as a low-price move to bolster their bullpen. Now, it turns out, it was a move to get a closer. Manager A.J. Hinch said as much today, anyway, telling MLB Network Radio that Osuna is going to get most of Houston’s save chances going forward.

This comes the morning after a late innings loss to the Mariners. The closer who Osuna is going to take over for — Hector Rondon — didn’t even pitch in that game, with the damage coming on a three-run Robinson Cano homer off of Collin McHugh. Rondon has blown saves in two of his last three appearances, however, coughing up runs against the Mariners at home on August 12 and against the A’s this past Friday.

Osuna has made five appearances since joining the Astros, allowing one run, striking out three and walking one in five innings of work. Before that he saved nine games for the Blue Jays prior to his domestic violence suspension.