Everyone across the game of baseball, from writers to fans to front-office members, seems to be unable to fathom a world where the Houston Astros could possibly be sellers at this year's trade deadline. And when a team has made it to the league championship series the past seven years in a row, that's justifiable. But what happens if the Astros play so poorly, they force their own hand?

Sitting at 30-36 after Monday's heartbreaking loss against the San Francisco Giants, Houston currently sits 5.5 games out of a playoff spot in the American League. If the last week of July rolls around and that number jumps to eight games, though? Or even 10? Well, perhaps it just might be time to think about trading third baseman Alex Bregman.

Bregman, the third baseman on two Astros World Series teams and already a franchise icon at the age of 30, is a free agent at the end of the 2024 season. Many believe given the club's ballooning payroll that Bregman is likely to walk in free agency, meaning they'll lose him for nothing if he isn't traded. So as unlikely as it may seem, it's worth thinking about potential fits for a Bregman trade, just in case the Astros decide to do the unthinkable.

Chicago Cubs

Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (2) hits a single during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs might be the most under-the-radar team to desperately need third base help at this year's trade deadline. Christopher Morel was given the job out of camp this season after floating around at a bunch of spots in 2023, though his most frequent position by far was DH. This season, he's not only the worst defensive player in the entire league with -11 outs above average, but his offense seems to be suffering as well (.702 OPS, compared to .821 in 2023).

So even if the Cubs don't want to totally bail on the Morel third base experiment, wouldn't it make sense to bring in a rental this season to help shore up the position in the interim? And you're not going to do better for a rental than Bregman, who not only has the second most OAA among third basemen at four but has the postseason experience that this untested Cubs core desperately needs.

And although Chicago is under .500 at the moment, it's hard to fathom a world where they would sell, especially given the chaotic state of the NL Wild Card race. They're desperate to taste postseason baseball again and with one five-game winning streak, they could be in total control of their playoff destiny. If all it takes to acquire Bregman is a couple prospects in the back half of the team's top 10, they need to jump on the opportunity.

San Diego Padres

I know, I know. It seems like the last thing the Padres need right now is another infielder. But something seems to be very wrong with Manny Machado this season, both offensively and defensively. There was even a time when the Padres seemed to be strongly considering making Machado the primary DH, which was before the team traded for Luis Arraez. But what if Xander Bogaerts stays injured or another infielder gets hurt before he gets back?

Regardless of the roster crunch, it feels like this year's Padres team has more moves to make. The Friars rank top 10 in just about every offensive category, but top five in almost none. The AJ Preller era in San Diego has been all about building towards winning a championship and usually, it takes an elite offense to do so rather than one that's good but not great.

And once again, of course, it feels strange to trade Bregman from one sub-.500 team to another that's been hovering right at the .500 mark. But we have to consider where the Padres are in their franchise trajectory. Yes, they've been trying to cut payroll a bit, but they could kick the Astros better prospects to eat some of the money, which won't be too much anyway if it's only half a season. Plus, Los Angeles Dodgers fans already hate Bregman for his role in the 2017 World Series, so he'd fit right in with the brown and gold.

New York Yankees

I'm only suggesting this because I want to watch the world burn. Yankees fans hate Alex Bregman and anyone who played for the 2017 Astros like the plague, so it's hard to believe Brian Cashman would do this to them. But also… maybe he should?

The Yankees are a great baseball team this season, perhaps the best in the league at this moment in time, but that doesn't guarantee things will work out for them the rest of the way. If you want an example, just look at the 2022 Yankees, who were dominant in the first half, but struggled to stay .500 after the All-Star break, ultimately resulting in an embarrassing sweep against Houston in the ALCS. There are real flaws worth fixing on this team, and corner infield offense is principal among those flaws.

Perhaps the other reason this cannot happen is that the Yankees would be hesitant to give the Astros any future lifeline, so dealing them prospects would be something akin to treason. But if the Astros bottom out hard enough that they also trade Kyle Tucker, it seems less likely that would be the case, since they wouldn't be as much of a threat to contend next season either. Again, it's not happening. Unless…