Halfway or so through this off-season, here are a string of thoughts about the Houston Astros…
- The Astros’ world is so different from where they were just three or four seasons ago. The Astros could have made NO moves this off-season and still have had a competitive team in 2019. And by competitive, that means the favorite to win the AL West. Moves they make this off-season are with the World Series in mind and/or the future sustainability of the club.
- Based purely on the 2018 regular season, the Astros needs entering the off-season would be most offensive. They were the best offense in the majors in 2017, but were a big notch down in 2018, sliding down from a robust 5.53 runs/game to an above average 4.92 runs/game. This was not a bad offense, but at times they looked that way in comparison to the very best pitching staff in the majors that the Astros sported in 2018.
- On the other hand, the after season losses pointed more to a need for the replacement of starting pitching. They did lose Evan Gattis, but he basically had lost his DH spot to Tyler White towards the end of 2018. They had lost Martin Maldonado and Brian McCann, but they were negatives as far as the offense went. The loss of Marwin Gonzalez is more of a loss of flexibility than of offense as Marwin was back to career norms last year. But they lost Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, who would be at least #2’s in most rotations in the majors and that is the big hole they need to fill for 2019.
- The Astros off-season to this point has been fairly painless so far and fairly solid. They picked up an All-Star LF in Michael Brantley and a probable starting or backup catcher in Robinson Chirinos just by signing them as free agents. They added Marwin-lite in Aledmys Diaz by trading Trent Thornton a pitcher they might have lost in the Rule 5 draft if he had stayed in the organization.
- There is more likely some pain coming if some of the proposed moves come to pass. Trades for Catcher J.T. Realmuto, or pitchers like Seth Lugo or Robbie Ray or Corey Kluber or others would cost the team some prospects, perhaps really highly rated prospects in Realmuto’s or Kluber’s cases. Some of the free agents lying around like C Yasmani Grandal or RP Zach Britton could cost a pretty penny and a bunch of years. If history is any guide, Jeff Luhnow will not overcommit prospects or dollars/years above what he sees as the true value of folks out there.
- The Astros fell just short of the 3 million mark in attendance last season and have not topped that number since they did it in two non-playoff seasons (2006 and 2007). In general, attendance around the majors has seen a dip as people find more and different ways to see the game when and where they want and frankly without incurring the high cost to see one of 81 not always thrilling home games. Will the Astros nudge over that mark this season? Yes, they are likely to do that unless they flop on their faces in 2019.
Any thoughts on your minds?