No one wants to give up when you can still see the thresh hold. Yes, Yogi Berra, no one wants to say it’s over, until it’s over. No one wants to be the one saying “What if?”.
But, frankly, for the Astros in 2016, it may have been over for quite some time. I wrote of 2016 season Perfect Storm back in August and, that may have been more true than anything. Too many things — unpredictable things, unexpected things, unforseen things — happened along the way that just mounted up.
Still, with 16 games remaining, the Astros are one good hefty run of backing into the playoffs. The reality of that news is that everyone knows Houston would probably not last long with the Red Sox, Indians and, yes, ‘dem Rangers.
That 2017 World Series is now upon Jeff Luhnow and he has some adjustments to make — more than just tweaks — if the Astros are going to be that dominant 93-95 game winner next season. He can’t just add another journeyman starter or continue a revolving door at first base. This team needs a strong, solid outfielder, a definite answer at first base going into the spring and more.
That said, the basic nucleus is in place for years to come. Yes, years to come. Here’s some of what we know.
The infield is star-studded, sans a first baseman.
If the Astros can find a regular first baseman, the infield is not only one of the best in the majors, it could be one of the best all-time. In Houston or anywhere. If Yulieski Gurriel can slide into the position, look out. More than likely, he won’t be the answer there though and Houston will continue to play revolving doors with the position. That doesn’t detract from just how dang good the infield will be in 2017 though.
Finally, Jason Castro will be gone.
Frankly, Castro has been one of the better at his position for a couple of years now, his hitting — or lack thereof — notwithstanding. His detractors will be happy to see him playing elsewhere next season. Another team will pick him up in free agency and be happy to have the light-hitting catcher. Evan Gattis will likely be the everyday guy with another understudy stepping in from the wings to back up the backstop.
Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.
The #1 off-season pitching move is to figure out what happened to Dallas Keuchel. #1A is to determine if the team can depend on Lance McCullers in 2017, and beyond. Without those two in 2017, the Astros will need to replace from the outside. In fact, Luhnow would be well-advised to find a significant upgrade to the rotation, whether it’s a #1 or absolute, solid #2. The problem is that he would likely be forced into the trade market since the free agent market will be slim.
Why can’t this team hit?
What’s the hitting coach’s name anyway? Doesn’t seem to be clicking for some reason. Something ain’t right. Hitters don’t hit when they come to Houston. Carlos Gomez isn’t any better in Texas than in Houston, but it’s clear there’s a problem. What is it? That may actually be Luhnow’s chief concern over the winter. How he addresses it may be the tipping point for 2017.
Fill in the blanks on this one. Geez.
What a mess.
Obvious keepers for 2017.
The “What do we do with” bunch.
So, in addition to the above fodder for you to consider, ponder and comment on, here are a few questions to start your day.
- Is it over?
- Should the Astros just shut down some hurting players (e.g. Correa, Keuchel, etc.)?
- Biggest need/focus for the off-season? In other words, if the Astros do nothing else this winter, the team should…
- A.J. Hinch will return. Should his coaching staff?
- Is the team really poised for a World Series run in 2017?