The offseason is upon us, and the Astros have some work to do if they want to return to the ALCS for a sixth straight season. The Apollo crew takes on some of the biggest questions facing this team in a winter full of intrigue and uncertainty.
Assuming the Astros don’t re-sign Carlos Correa, who should be their Opening Day shortstop?
Andrew Gleinser: No one. They should have no shortstop. If Crane and Click are too cheap and foolish to retain Correa, they should be forced to play the season with only eight men on the field. That’s what they get for pinching pennies and letting another homegrown star go elsewhere!
Joking aside, I’d like to see Chris Taylor at shortstop. He and Aledmys Diaz can split time there until Jeremy Pena is ready, and Taylor can also spend time in center field and spell players at other positions. If the Astros won’t pay Correa, then they shouldn’t pay any of the other top free agent shortstops. The lower tier of free agents doesn’t inspire much confidence. Taylor is a solid regular all over the diamond and will always have a place in the lineup regardless of position.
Astros Future: I would roll with Jeremy Pena. The fill in options outside of Correa (Story, Semien) are going to want at least 3-4 year deals worth $20 million+ a year. The other options are maybe sign a guy like Andrelton Simmons who is great defensively but not good with the bat. But if that’s the case, might as well roll Pena who is good defensively and has upside with the bat. In this order, he would hit 7th or 8th probably where the pressure for immediate offensive production is less. I think Pena is ready and signing another shortstop to a multi-year deal doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Also have Diaz if Pena isn’t ready day one.
Lil Bro Taylor: IF the Astros can’t find a way to bring Carlos back home, then I think you have to root for Pena szn. The kid is an uber talented freak athlete, so you know everyone & their mom wants to see what he can do in the big leagues. Plus, that’d allow Click & Co. to distribute their money in other places around the roster.
Astros UK: Honestly, I’m still having trouble accepting this. However, if I have to answer, let’s go with Marcus Semien. What he lacks in terms of leadership and postseason experience he would somewhat make up for in home run power.
Spaceman: I think for me the obvious answer would be utility man Aledmys Diaz. Eventually, I think the Astros will promote from within, moving Pena up to the show.
In the wake of Jake Meyers’ injury, should the Astros be in the market for an outfielder, and if so, whom?
AG: Yes, but not one on a long-term deal a la Starling Marte. A team that has both Meyers and Pedro Leon in the fold doesn’t need to commit multiple years to a center fielder. As I noted above, Taylor is the guy. He and Chas McCormick can split time in center until Meyers returns, and if Meyers fails, Leon should be ready to go.
Future: I’ve looked at the free agents and outside of Starling Marte, the options aren’t great. I think guys like Pillar or Odubel Herrera are decent options, but a platoon of Chas and Siri might be able to match their production. I do wonder the Astros thoughts on Tucker in CF long term because that would give them more options if they wanted to find a corner outfield bat. With all that said, I would roll with Chas/Siri and spend on pitching.
Taylor: No. We already have Siri & Chas, two young guys who’ve done more than enough to earn their spots on this roster. Factor in Brantley, Yordan & Tucker, and I think we’re pretty set in the outfield despite the Jake Meyers news.
UK: I don’t think so, I think we have enough talent between Chas McCormick, Jose Siri and the farm to keep us ticking over until Jake Meyers is back.
Spaceman: We thought we had all the depth in the world, but when you have one or two guys out there’s a strain on the roster – and in particular – the batting order. I’d like to see the Astros go out and get someone with some pop. Jake Meyers looked very promising in his small sample size, so that power needs to be replaced in the lineup. Tell me you wouldn’t love Nick Castellanos on the Stros? Or Kris Bryant? There are plenty of options, even Marte in a pinch would work.
How should the Astros address their bullpen this offseason?
AG: First, they need an impact left-handed reliever. Brooks Raley is a free agent and Blake Taylor is decent but not necessarily an “impact” guy. Andrew Chafin and Aaron Loup would fit that bill, and a return to form from Brad Hand is certainly possible. I’d like to see one of those three come to Houston.
Secondly, they need a new setup man to fill Kendall Graveman’s role. That could mean re-signing Graveman, targeting someone like Corey Knebel, or swinging a trade. I don’t see the Astros ponying up for the likes of Raisel Iglesias or Kenley Jansen, and they don’t have to. I’d also love to see a reunion with Collin McHugh, who had a terrific year for the Rays.
Future: Re-sign Graveman and maybe Yimi Garcia depending on his market. I would look to add another high velo arm with Stanek. But a pen of Pressly, Maton, Stanek, Graveman, Garcia, Javier and another arm has the chance to be really good. That’s not factoring in any prospect who may be ready to contribute (Bermudez, Dubin, France).
Taylor: In short, retain as many pieces as possible. That bullpen was GROOVIN’ in October, and I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t continue to do so next season. Keeping the whole band together may be tough, but I have trust in Jimmy Click to get the pen right.
UK: Well, no idea what Collin McHugh’s asking price is but don’t even ask – just get him back. He was straight up nasty out of the bullpen in 2018 for us and, having dispelled the injury worries of 2020, he showed with the Rays he’s still that same guy. Plus he would almost certainly say yes. Aside from that, work out a way to keep Kendall Graveman. Otherwise, we’re actually pretty well set. Maybe another middle reliever but not sure who fits that bill. Actually forget that, we’ve got Kent Emanuel coming back from injury and whilst I don’t know what role the club will use him for, all I do know is that if he’s the same guy from 2021 – which I fully expect him to be – then that’s another great arm to get back.
Spaceman: RE-SIGN THEM ALL! What a job these guys did down the stretch. Guys we feared taking the mound halfway through the season ended up being nails in the post-season. I’d like to see them all return if they are available to re-sign.
Should the Astros add another starting pitcher, and if so, whom?
AG: Yes they should. I like Cristian Javier in the bullpen, and you’re not going to get through the year with only Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Jake Odorizzi in the rotation. Given the loss of draft picks as a result of the sign stealing scandal, I also think the Astros should avoid targeting anyone who received a qualifying offer.
A reunion with Justin Verlander would make sense. They could also target Marcus Stroman or Jon Gray, though I would be surprised if they outbid other suitors. They’d be more likely to go for someone on a shorter-term deal, perhaps like Carlos Rodon or even (gasp) Clayton Kershaw. A starter with upside on a deal that’s no more than three years would be the way to go.
Future: I would like to see them add another starter. Someone who can be at the top of the rotation and eat innings. I think they stay away from players with the QO attached so maybe they target Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, maybe Scherzer or keeping JV.
Taylor: FEED ME SYNDERGAARD! I know he’s barely pitched over the past 2 seasons, but this man is electric! Since 2015, only Chapman has thrown more pitches over 99mph than this dude. Plus, he knows how to play in October. Thor brings the thunder – he’d slide nicely into that Houston rotation behind LMJ.
UK: Yes absolutely. He’s not elite but if Chris Bassitt really is available from the A’s I would like that. I can’t lie, Lance McCullers’ health will always be a real worry for me.
Spaceman: I’m a big Robbie Ray guy. I tuned into most of his games this season – the Blue Jays were a fun team to watch, especially when he was pitching. We need a veteran presence and a punch-out guy, and he ticks both of those boxes, without being too old.
What is one bold move the Astros should consider making this offseason?
AG: Trading for Chris Bassitt. Intra-division trades aren’t always easy, but the A’s are about to tear it down again and the Astros could use a reliable veteran starter. He turns 33 in February and is a free agent after 2022, so his price shouldn’t be as high as someone like Luis Castillo or Frankie Montas. Bassitt is coming off a nice few seasons and should boost the rotation without mortgaging the future.
Future: I’m not very bold when it comes to moves. I think with a couple tweaks (signing a solid starter and a couple relievers) the Astros will still be the favorite in the AL West and a really good team again. But if we have to get bold, maybe throw a trade proposal out there to get Bryan Reynolds from the Pirates. Under team control for 4 more years and would solidify the outfield with Tucker for a while. He would be expensive but it would add another impact player to the lineup.
Taylor: Throw everything you have at Correa, and if that still doesn’t work, cash out on a high-end starter. 2019 proved that you can dominate an entire league with an imposing starting staff. I want the opposing lineup to let out a disgruntled “oh shit” every single day of the week.
UK: Giving Carlos Correa that huge contract he’s asking for. Hey, I mean you asked, right?!
Spaceman: The elephant in the room needs to be addressed – I think their bold move should be giving Correa a Brinks truck full of cash. Coming off of a Gold Glove, healthy season and his history with this team and city – I just want him to stay. The locker room used to have George Springer and Carlos Correa – two leaders who could hype this team up when they were in a corner. They are about to have neither of those guys, and really nobody else on the roster is that type of guy. They need at least one, might as well be one who has proven his worth to the team!