After a brutal rebuilding process, the Houston Astros set their goal to win the World Series. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane have taken a lot of criticism over the years on how the team was run but after winning the World Series in 2017, doubters have been silenced.
In the aftermath of a devastating storm in August, this World Series win is for the City of Houston and all of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. This organization has developed All-Star caliber players over the years, and this organization is run with a goal of returning to the World Series every year. Not only does this team believe in developing players within their own system, Crane has shown he will spend the money on free agents to win and bringing in guys like Charlie Morton, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick shows this team cares about character and talent.
With a blend of young players to wise veterans, the Astros could be a force to reckoned with for years to come.
1 Keep the core players together
The Astros front office has its hands full this offseason as most of the team’s core players are under team control for several years and will be due raises. However, Jose Altuve is eligible for free agency after the 2019 season and the team options for 2018 and 2019 should be picked up. That said, can the Astros lock up the front-runner for the American League MVP on a long-term contract?
Altuve is highly underpaid with his current contract, and his new contract will probably be a hefty one due to his performances and his agent being Scott Boras, but his deal is not the only contract the Astros should worry about as Dallas Keuchel is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. The Astros control Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel for years to come, so will owner Jim Crane pony up the cash to sign the players long-term and also can they can complement their core players with free agent signings? Houston should be an attractive place for free agents now, and this team will be competitive for years to come.
2 Acquire another starting pitcher
The Astros have a solid rotation for 2018, but the team could improve if they gain another starting pitcher. Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel should remain at the top of the rotation for 2018, and the rest of the rotation, while good, could be better. Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton will probably fill in the other two spots, leaving one spot left. Mike Fiers and Collin McHugh are in-house options, but Fiers struggled with consistency and Collin McHugh battled injuries in 2017.
Could the Astros sign a top tier rotation arm, trade their prospects for a controllable starter, or will they target a second tier arm like Alex Cobb in free agency? Cobb could be an intriguing fit in Houston, but he is probably not the arm the Astros are looking for. The team previously had interest in Masahiro Tanaka in free agency in 2014, but the Astros are probably not going to shell out big money for a starting pitcher with a partially torn UCL and since this team is getting expensive, having a big contract on their payroll is probably not the best option going forward. I expect the Astros to target a starting pitcher via trade, and a good fit could be Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays.
3 Acquire a new closer
While Ken Giles had a good regular season, the Astros closer struggled in the World Series. With his struggles in the playoffs, is he the closer going forward for the Astros or will the team go out and look for a closer outside the organization? There are few options on the market, but two names stick out more than the others.
Wade Davis and Greg Holland could be of interest for the Astros. Holland struggled mightily in August after a phenomenal first half, but could still be a good option. As for Wade Davis, he has the postseason pedigree and could thrive in Houston. Will the Astros shell out money for a closing pitcher, or will they give Ken Giles another chance in 2018? This is a big question and GM Jeff Luhnow have some decisions to make before next season.
4 Sign a left-handed bat
Brian McCann and Josh Reddick were the only predominant left-handed batters for the Astros in their lineup this season. The Astros right-handed batters still hit right-handed pitching well, but I think they could enjoy having another lefty bat for their lineup.
Like with the closing market, there is not one major name that sticks out that fits the Astros need for a left-handed bat. Carlos Beltran served as the team’s primary DH this season so do the Astros go for a similar fit, or do they trust what they have within? While the Astros won’t spend the big money to land a player like Eric Hosmer, they could look for a bat like Mitch Moreland who did decent in Boston last season. My prediction is they bring in Moreland on a one-year contract for $6m.
5 Acquire bench depth
While the Astros had a good bench last season, Cameron Maybin is a free agent this winter. Could the Astros look to bring him back on reduced terms? If not, a good fit for the Astros could be a player like Jon Jay, who fits the need of a left-handed bat and a model teammate in the locker room. Jake Marisnick and Evan Gattis will return in their bench roles next season, so the Astros should be in good shape in terms of depth, but one or two bench players wouldn’t hurt. My guess is they bring in Jon Jay and also bring in another player on a minor league contract.
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