Every day that passes is another day closer to the July 31 trade deadline. For the first time in what seems like ages, the Houston Astros are shaping up to be buyers, not sellers, as that time approaches.

It is already June, and the Houston Astros still have the best record in the American League. After years of trading veterans in exchange for young prospects, the shoe is finally on the other foot.

There is a good chance that the Astros will remain in contention throughout the season, and if they want to make a serious push at the postseason, they might need a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to anchor the staff through the dog days of August and September.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Astros are in negotiations with the Philadelphia Phillies for left-hander Cole Hamels.

“The goal is [to acquire] a No. 1 or 2,” a source told Heyman.

Apparently, the Houston front office does not think that the starting rotation has enough depth to navigate through the playoffs, and a 1-2 punch of crafty southpaw and sub-2.00 ERA owner Dallas Keuchel and Hamels—or another front-line starter—does sound appealing.

However, the Astros need to be wary of betting the house on Hamels.

There is no argument that he is an elite pitcher, but the number of top-tier prospects that Philly will undoubtedly command in return is too steep a price.

For example, think about in the past when Hamels has been a hot commodity.

The Dodgers and Red Sox each showed significant interest in the 31-year-old Philadelphia ace, but in both instances the Phillies asked for an unrealistic return.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Phillies wouldn’t budge on an offer of all three of the Dodgers’ top prospects—Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias—last summer right before the trade deadline.

Then, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported in January that the Phillies were “unrealistic in their expectations,” possibly asking for both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart in exchange for Hamels.

So the first step for the Astros is going to be to reach a deal. For that to happen, they will have to include plenty of their top prospects in the deal. Fortunately, they have plenty to offer. The ‘Stros have the eighth most talented farm system in all of baseball, per MLB.com, meaning they are one of the few teams who could offer a package that could get Hamels.

But Hamels would certainly be expensive. Carlos Correa is likely off limits, but 2013 first-overall pick Mark Appel, Lance McCullers Jr., Preston Tucker and Colin Moran could potentially be involved in a blockbuster trade to land an elite starter like Hamels. 

Plus, on the off chance that the two sides can reach an agreement, Hamels’ 20-team no-trade clause poses another obstacle. He has already vetoed the Blue Jays this year, and a source told Heyman that Hamels would likely do the same to the Astros.

However, if Houston continues to do well and has a chance to make the playoffs—in addition to the abundance of young talent that means the Astros will be contenders for years down the road—who knows, maybe Hamels considers it.

The final hurdle is Hamels’ contract: He is scheduled to make $24 million per year through 2018. The Astros currently don’t have anyone making more than $10 million, and they will likely not want to allocate such a big chunk of their payroll to one player. Not only is it one player, but it’s a player who will only be on the field every fifth day.

With all this in mind, I think it is a good idea for the Astros to at least explore the market for a front-line starter. But ultimately, they should not be willing to give away more than two top prospects for his services. While he is a consistent and durable pitcher—he is well on his way to surpassing the 200-inning plateau for the sixth consecutive year—I don’t think he is worth the price that the Phillies are going to undoubtedly demand.

The Astros have two of the top five picks in Monday’s MLB draft, so they will add even more potential stars to their already loaded organization.

They are a team on the rise with a very bright future. Even if they do not accomplish everything they want to this season, they have several more years to do just that.

The ‘Stros have played terrific baseball to this point—without Hamels—and it is basically a foregone conclusion that the Phillies are going to be rightfully greedy in the negotiations.

Add it all up, and the Astros are fine as their roster sits right now. Don’t overspend for an elite starting pitcher. Keuchel is having a Cy Young-caliber season to this point, Collin McHugh has proved to be a consistent middle-of-the-rotation arm and McCullers looks like a future ace.

The Astros have amassed the best record in the AL without Hamels, and they don’t really need him to take the next step of eventually making and advancing deep into the playoffs.

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