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The Houston Astros got stomped on Tuesday night, 10-3, by the New York Yankees with future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander getting hammered for seven runs on eight hits in five innings. 

Given how the 2024 season has gone for the Astros, it wasn't entirely shocking. The loss dropped them to 12-23, good for last place in the AL West -- a division that includes a team that lost 112 games last season and one that lost Shohei Ohtani in the offseason (and Mike Trout during this season). 

In fact, the only teams that have a worse record in all of baseball are the utter dregs: the White Sox, Rockies and Marlins. The Marlins already sold off a key piece with the trade of Luis Arraez to the Padres. As they are both on pace to lose 120+ games (for real), we can expect both the Rockies and White Sox to be sellers this season as well. 

The Astros, meanwhile, are on pace right now to finish 56-106. If that sounds familiar, that was the Astros' record in 2011, the first of three straight pitiful seasons before the tide started to turn for the franchise. 

If things continue on this path, the Astros could well be sellers this season. 

General manager Dana Brown was asked Tuesday if he could foresee a scenario where that thought comes to fruition. He wouldn't hear of it. 

"No," he said on MLB Network. "No, I can't envision that. This ballclub is too good." 

On one hand, you have to agree with Brown. Note that I said above that the tide turned for the franchise after the dreadful rebuilding years over a decade ago. They've now made the ALCS a whopping seven straight seasons, a run that includes four AL pennants and two World Series championships. They were one game shy of the World Series last season and returned a very similar roster this season.

Knowing that, the general manager absolutely should not be ready to pull the trigger on a selloff only 35 games into the season. 

We don't have to be bound by the same mindset, though. We can definitely explore whether or not the Astros are actually this bad and then dive even further into "what if they are sellers?" territory. Let's do just that. 

Are they this bad? 

It can be folly to judge teams based on run differential early in the season (for example, note that the Cubs lost 17-0 one game, totally wrecking the curve for a while), but the Astros' run differential of -27 says they should be around 15-20 instead of 12-23. I suppose that's a better sign than the actual record, but 15-20 isn't exactly good. Small-sample caveats remain in play, but Fangraph's "BaseRuns" has the Astros at -4, which indicates they've played more like a 16-19 team than their actual record. Again, better but not good -- and those 23 losses in 35 games are banked and can't be taken back. 

We could glance at the projection systems and see they still have a decent chance to make the playoffs. SportsLine has them finishing 87-75 and with a 47.1% chance to make the postseason. You don't sell with those odds. 

If we glance at the personnel, we could try to find players who will turn things around. Jose Altuve has been amazing, so it's not him. Kyle Tucker is also having an excellent season. Yordan Alvarez isn't hitting well for average (.248), but he sits currently with a 123 OPS+, so while there's room for growth, it's not like we should expect him to absolutely explode. 

Alex Bregman is the one to watch. He's slashing .195/.275/.260 and we know with his track record he's much better than this. 

Overall on offense, things could stand to happen in a more timely fashion. They are first in the AL in batting average, second in on-base percentage, third in slugging and eighth in runs. The lag in runs can be partially attributed to sequencing, or, as noted a second ago, timing. They are hitting .225/.313/.331 with runners in scoring position and two outs, causing them to strand 253 runners -- or more than seven per game. 

One would expect things to turn around on that front. 

In the rotation, they've dealt with injuries. Verlander has only made four starts. Framber Valdez has also only made four. Cristian Javier hit the IL after four himself. Hunter Brown and J.P. France have been bad in 12 combined starts, though Ronel Blanco has been a surprising bright spot. 

The bullpen has been an issue with Josh Hader (6.14 ERA) and Ryan Pressly (5.27) being terrible after entering the season as what should have been the most dominant back-end duo in baseball. 

In all, the Astros' 4.92 ERA is 14th of 15 AL teams. 

It's very reasonable to conclude the likes of Bregman, Alvarez, Verlander, Valdez, Hader and Pressly pick it up while the offense starts to hit better in so-called clutch situations. That would then right the proverbial ship and Brown would be correct for not envisioning being a seller. 

Still, there is a world where this is just how the team plays all season. If that's the case ... 

What if they sell? 

Verlander has a $35 million option for next season that vests if he throws 140 innings this season and he's already been on the injured list. He might not make it and if he doesn't, he'll hit free agency after the year. If he's healthy in July and the Astros are out of it, he'll absolutely be discussed in trade rumors. It's possible there will teams willing to pay him that fee next season or at least split it up in some fashion with the Astros. And, again, there's no guarantee he'll get to 140.

Bregman is a free agent after this season, so he would be a rental and could be a very attractive one. I know he isn't hitting right now, but he's 30 years old and posted 4.9 WAR last season. Teams would be lining up to speak with the Astros about him. 

There's a $14 million mutual option for Pressly for next season, otherwise he'd be a free agent. Not only would that be attractive to potential bullpen buyers, but he'd surely love a chance to return to closing duties after the Astros essentially demoted him when they signed Hader. 

Speaking of the bullpen, Kendall Graveman (free agent after this season) and Rafael Montero (free agent after 2025) could go as well. 

These are all pieces that the Astros could move without impacting their plans to contend again in 2025. 

For now, that doesn't much matter. If the Astros keeping losing roughly 2/3 of their games, however, it's something worth watching.