The Astros’ extensions and the core


Last summer, the blog (OK, it was me…) took on the impossible task of a three year look ahead at the Astros future (at least I made it look impossible).

The Astros in 2019.

The Astros in 2020.

The Astros in 2021.

Now that the first year has been torn apart by all the in-season and off-season decisions of the Astros (Picking up Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Robinson Chirinos, Michael Brantley, Wade Miley, giving a shot to Josh James and Framber Valdez and letting go of Ken Giles, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Dallas Keuchel and Brian McCann, having Charlie Morton say goodbye and having Joe Smith and Lance McCullers go belly up….) we will try to look at what the recent extensions of Pressly, Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander have done to what we will call the “core” of the team.

For this effort, we will call the “core” as being the top 5 position players, the top 3 starting pitchers and the top 2 relievers. If you think the “core” is something different – take your own shot at this list……

CORE SPOT 2019 2020 2021 2022
POSITION #1 ALEX BREGMAN BREGMAN BREGMAN BREGMAN
POSITION #2 JOSE ALTUVE ALTUVE ALTUVE ALTUVE
POSITION #3 CARLOS CORREA CORREA CORREA TUCKER
POSITION #4 GEORGE SPRINGER SPRINGER TUCKER ALVAREZ
POSITION #5 MICHAEL BRANTLEY BRANTLEY ALVAREZ STUBBS
SP #1 JUSTIN VERLANDER VERLANDER VERLANDER WHITLEY
SP #2 GERRIT COLE MCCULLERS MCCULLERS CORBIN MARTIN
SP #3 BRAD PEACOCK PEACOCK WHITLEY JB BUKAUSKAS
RP #1 ROBERTO OSUNA OSUNA OSUNA JOSH JAMES
RP #2 RYAN PRESSLY PRESSLY PRESSLY ???

 

One of the biggest things the extensions last week brought to the table is stability in what we are calling the “core”. The thought process here is that if you have 5 position players, 3 Starting Pitchers and 2 Relievers who are above average to elite, you have a contending team no matter what you have in the other spots on the team. How does this play out over the foreseeable future?

5 “Core” Position Players

The five best players in the lineup (Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Springer and Brantley) are controlled for both 2019 and 2020. If you lose Brantley and Springer heading into 2021 the assumption would be that they would be replaced in the “core” by two newbies (OFs Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez) or possibly someone out from the outside or someone like C Garrett Stubbs. Then heading into 2022, Carlos Correa might be gone and some other newbie or new hire would have to roll into the list. Would it be Miller time for Seth Beer or would a Miles Straw move from a support spot to a prime time “core” spot occur?

3 “Core” Starting Pitchers

This is the diciest area heading into the future and the reason the Verlander extension is so critical. Without him, 2020’s staff would be headed by either a guy who is a swing man (though an excellent one) in reliever/starter Brad Peacock and a pitcher coming off TJ surgery in Lance McCullers. This extension allows the front office the flexibility to fill in behind these three with some up and coming youngsters like Forrest Whitley and Josh James with a Nolan Ryan type mentor in JV. He would then lead the staff in 2021 as more youngsters would climb the rotation ladder with the hopes that the 2022 staff would be led by in-house arms.

2 “Core” Relievers

If Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly repeat what they did after their 2018 trades to Houston, the area of the closer and main set-up man would be nicely manned through 2021. The 2022 back end of the bullpen is a crap shoot at this time, but depending on how a potential starting pitcher like Josh James shakes out, these spots might have at least one big in-house arm filling a spot. Beyond that, the front office has not shied away from chasing bullpen help along the way (Ken Giles, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, Osuna, Pressly).

The key thing here is that the recent extensions have solidified the team moving forward with as many stars or near stars as any team in baseball signed up for the next few seasons.

So…..

  1. Do you think the “core” as defined has merit or is a bit of BS?
  2. If the Astros cannot extend anyone beyond who they have to date ….will they be OK?
  3. Which “core” areas have you most concerned?
  4. How much outside and how much inside filler can the Astros toss at the holes in the “core” as they appear?
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69 comments on “The Astros’ extensions and the core

  1. We live in a world of reaction and overreaction these days. I think the extensions have been a smart move by the players. For some reason every free agent felt like they were entitled to a larger payday than “the guy” the season before reached. The media built up Machado and Harper since they were teenagers but neither of them has even sniffed success in the postseason. As to the Astros, I don’t have a problem with Bregman or Verlander’s deals…but suggest both come with more risk than the normal (injury could happen to anyone). Look at how far players can fall in short amounts of time – like Carlos Gonzalez.

    1. I think your definition of core makes sense. In today’s world of 13 pitcher / 12 position players you really can’t afford to platoon too many places. You need those core position players who will go out everyday and perform/lead. You also need stability in the rotation or your bullpen will be dead by July.

    2. I wouldn’t go extension crazy. I’d approach guys like Springer and Cole, but if either or both told me they weren’t interested in that discussion at this point in time I’d just tell them, “no problem…you know where to find me.” Outfield and Pitcher are to positions you draft/develop in volume. It’s expected you will find capable players through normal player development…but it would be ridiculous to expect to easily replace All-Star caliber players.

    3. Relievers. They’re volatile and work under very difficult conditions.

    4. Baseball is a team sport – much more so than basketball or football. If James Harden goes down the Rockets’ season is over despite having some talented players around him. I feel bad reminding the other fans of the years Matt Schaub got injured followed by the year he did stay healthy. In baseball, if we lose Correa or Verlander we can fill either position and still win enough games to make the playoffs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 1. I’m okay with the core, but I think Cole, or more likely, George will do a deal and stay. And as I mentioned earlier today, I don’t have a great feeling about Tucker. I hope I’m dead wrong.

    2. Sure, Luhnow will use the money wisely and put a contender on the field. Maybe not a solid a contender though. I just really like the chemistry of todays group though.

    3. Tucker. And catching depth if Stubbs is not a solution.

    4. That’s a tough question. We don’t know. But I think we’re better off than most clubs “in house” wise. Outfield and pitching looks pretty good right now. But who knows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe Tubby is swimming with the big fish again. But I see “Valdez is not coming”. Does the Tuna need a little more “seasoning” and has Framber become Frambulee.

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      • And we have “Saint Nick” Tanielu delivering the big Christmas homer in March. Sure look forward to that this year.

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  3. Another for whatever it’s worth: I’ve decided to fly into Houston and get my bum knee checked out, to coincide with the opener. Tickets on line are much more expensive than they were for the last game of 2018 against the Sox.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1. The core list is fine until someone goes down. Then the “core” becomes the 40 man. We needed just about every one of the 40 to win the WS. 2 Yes in the near term (2 years). But each team has to continue to change. 3. Starters. Still not sure we can win in the playoffs with 2 starters. 4. They can fill all holes for next 2 years from inside. But when we get to the trade deadline, they may be a deal that needs to be made to improve a spot or maybe two.

    (Is it not interesting that before the season starts, baseball fans, players, managers, etc all think their team is World Series bound. But in football it is the exact opposite. Every coach moans that Valley State Nursing has a really good team this year and will probably beat their top ranked team.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, I posted this earlier in the week as the last comment before the extensions took over the conversation. I hope this helps explain Tanielu’s sudden transformation:

      1oldpro
      March 21, 2019 @ 8:44 am
      When Nick Tanielu tore his ACL after the end of the 2016 season, he was out for all of 2017 and we just found out how hard it was to recover from that major surgery. Tanielu said that in 2018 he took another three months to round his body into playing condition.
      I took a look at his stats month by month in 2018 and by August there was hardly a pitcher in the PCL who could get him out.
      I think Tanielu could rattle some cages in the Astros prospect zoo this season.

      Reply

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      • I love Tanielu’S attitude. He was soo grateful to get an invite to spring training, and he understood he wasn’t going to break camp with the big club, but trust me he opened more than one set of eyes in Florida. I’ve decided to keep up with him this year, I pick one kid to follow every year….last year it was Josh James.
        This is a talented young man for SURE!

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  5. The guys who say “heck yeah, I’ll talk about an extension” will probably be part of the core.
    The guys who say “no, I don’t want to talk about an extension” are probably not going to be part of the core.
    The guys whose agent talks them out of talking about an extension will probably not be part of the core.
    Guys still in the minors will be part of the core, hopefully, before I’m gone.

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    • Hold on, let’s talk about the details. deGrom was going to make $17m this year in arbitration. The extension turns this into a $7m salary in 2019 with $10m signing bonus, and then four years for $120.5m. It sounds like the deal is not yet finalized, but the 2020 salary would be $23m with salaries around $30m the final three years. There is also talk of an opt-out and an option year as well. Since deGrom turns 31 this summer and Cole will be 29 this September I doubt he is going to ask for anything less than what deGrom, Sale, and Verlander have received.

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      • Yeah Devin, I did simplify things a bit. But I’m reading no opt out in the deal. And I agree, those two years in age difference should make a difference. But deGrom has put up better stats than anyone has over the past six years. All that said it’s just as likely that Cole does not sign an extension and goes the more traditional route into FA. I’m sure he and Boras both are banking on a repeat of his 2018 performance.

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  6. What I find interesting is that there has been no rumor talks about Keuchel in weeks – no XYZ is interested – nothing. It’s beginning to feel like the Astros will not get that compensatory pick, because no one is going to sign him before the June draft.
    Of course this narrative could turn around if a contender has a critical arm go down.

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    • That is kind of bonkers. It either shows Keuchel is holding the line wanting too much money and too many years, or for the first time in recorded history all the teams and his agent are keeping their mouths shut.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Last night Abraham Toro came into the game as a late inning replacement at 1B for Yuli Gurriel. Look for Toro to get some time at 1B this season in the minors.
    I think the new rule about having a 26-man roster next year will seal Garrett Stubbs as one of the catchers for the Astros. He could possibly work on playing another position during the offseason and be one of three catchers on the team while being able to play in the outfield because of his athleticism and his arm. I know, I’m crazy. The catcher that the Astros got in the trade for JD Davis, Manea is his name, is a player who would be subject to the Rule 5 draft in December. The Astros knew that when they traded for him, so this season is important for him.
    If I had any, I’d be willing to bet money that Jeff Luhnow’s phone is ringing every minute of the day with teams looking to trade for some of our young players.
    Bukauskas is starting the game this afternoon for the Astros. Last game of spring training!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Though Yogi almost killed himself playing the outfield against the Reds in Crosley field in the World Series – They had mini-Tal’s Hill as a warning track in front of the fences and he ended up like a mountain goat on it

        Liked by 1 person

      • As funny as Yogi was, I could see him taking a selfie on that berm at Crosley. Too bad there was no such thing as selfies for another 60 years or so.
        If Yogi were alive today, he would be a guest star on The Orville.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Wanted to post over weekend about JV, AB, etc., but was in bed with a bug. (Not a bedbug.) Greenbacks falling from the skies, a WS title, a copacetic team — what’s not to like? Of course, Verlander also said, “Baseball is broken,” but hey, we live in a broken world and you only go around once. He thinks teams that hide behind “rebuilding” are morally suspect, but we all know that does not apply to the “best organization in baseball.” Alex Bregman offered to give his parents some of his haul, which is consistent with doing selfies of big tips to fast food workers. His parents graciously declined, since they are both lawyers and not on food stamps. Please don’t read this as cynical. I’m delighted they’re back, delighted they’re happy they’re back. And Dan, if you want to make a passing reference to the M—— Report, it’s okay by me. Just add a disclaimer: “This sentence to be read only by Diane.”

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    • This sentence for Diane to read only – relative to the M—- report, my advice to the world is to take a page from that great philosopher Elsa from Frozen – “Let it Go……”

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  9. I think the “core” concept is very appropriate, Dan. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the front office looks at it that way, too. Baseball is not a game where you can change up 60-80% of your team in a single year (like basketball) and have success. Having your best players/leaders in place consistently year to year helps build and maintain an organization culture and I think maximizes the connection between team and fans.

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  10. Because of their age, their success, their experience and their circumstances I could see LMJ and Osuna as candidates for extensions sometime in the next couple of years, maybe becoming part of the future core of this team.

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  11. This kid Bukaukas (did I spell that right?) threw innings for five different clubs in the organization last year. That had to be a mental and physical exercise. Then he had a great spring. Now he’s got a start in the big park. Safe to say he’s on a fast track.

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  12. A question for the group, recall during the playoffs last season, that the announcers, especially Rodriguez, stated that perhaps the reasoning for the Astros’ home woes were due, in part, to the batter’s eye in center field. Has anyone heard anything about the teams management changing the batter’s eye this offseason?

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  13. Today was excellent practice for giving away the daytime home game on getaway day. They haven’t done that since last season so I’m glad they have that loss figured out again for this season.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So Carlos Correa is questionable for the opener. I’ve said this before; could he be a bit of a softie? I guess the upside might be that if he ends up being a perennial 110 game a year guy, he might be affordable.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. If I were a Carpenter . . . .

    We’ve only just begun . . . to soar.
    New bats and uniforms
    on a plane bound for Tampa Bay.
    We’ve only just begun.

    Before the risin’ sun, we’ll fly
    so many games ahead.
    Let’s hit line drives and score lots of runs!
    At last we’re havin’ fun!

    Lookin’ at webgems that are new to us;
    Watchin’ JV strike out some Rays.
    Wondrin’ what Brantley’s gonna do for us,
    and if this outfield will display … the leather . . . the LEATHER!!!!!

    And when the boxscore comes . . . we’ll smile.
    Real stats to talk about.
    Games that matter to the pennant run!
    Oh yes, we’ve just begun!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good job Mr. Bill
      Based on the first line I thought this was going to be a Bobby Darin song

      This song was originally penned by Paul Williams (also wrote Rainy Days and Sundays, Old Fashioned Love Song, lots others and played the “small” brother in Smokey and the Bandit movies) for a wedding commercial. The Carpenters saw it and the rest is history

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  16. Well it’s Wednesday and I’m headed out for a while. But, I think:
    * Yuli will be the big surprise for the Astros.
    * The bullpen, being ranked #4 in MLB, is overrated.
    * Correa is in discomfort.
    * The Astros can win the World Series, but are going to drive us nuts in the meantime.
    * I would would be happy for Houston to leave Tampa with a 2-2 record. I can’t wait for them to prove me wrong.
    * I check the news every day for something good about the Texans and every day I get nothing.
    * I’m going to invest in watching the Cougars Friday night.
    * I’m pretty burnt out on the Astros, but I would respond to a prediction blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OP –
      *What are you thinking with Yuli – a power surge? More walks? A .330 average?
      * I am good with the back end of the bullpen, but not sure about everyone else (though I think James can be a gem) – so yeah surprised they are #4 ranked
      * I am in discomfort over Correa who is like one of those European super sports cars that can’t stay out of the garage
      * Yes they can win the WS and we know even with a great team it is a long, strange trip
      * I will be happy with a 3-1 record coming out of Tampa – hit the gas guys and don’t look back
      * Not sure what else the Texans are going to do before the draft – I think they should have been sucking up every above average O-lineman they could find, but there are not a lot of those in FA
      * The Coogs – my school – I watched most of the first two games and really enjoyed how they play the game. Played extremely hard on both ends of the court and their front court is unbelievably quick. They did a great job of not letting Ohio St beat them inside.
      * Hopefully by tomorrow I will have a blog post on my review and predictions for the AL West by tomorrow before the opener

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Looking at your core players I can see Brantley gone in 2021 but not sure about Springer. I guess it depends if he wants to go for the big bucks with the Redsox. If he doesn’t sign an extension this year then I would color him gone. Same for Correa in 2022. I would thing we have a better shot at signing George than Correa. I think we have to make room for Tanielu someplace. This guy can hit! Also there’s Toro and Straw. If Beer doesn’t make it to 1st base then one of these other guys. As for 2020 SP, I see Whitley, Bukauskas, LMJ, Martin , and maybe a trade for an established big arm. I would hope we can keep LMJ if he’s still the cats meow and not ridiculous in cost. Lot’s of options for the BP in the years beyond 2020.

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  18. Tucker has changed a couple of things. If he had asserted himself, it’s likely Brantley is not here. And if he continues not to assert himself, then Springer becomes more important going forward. I hope Tanielu goes back to AAA and hits like Tubby did last year. I think a bit of a long shot, but if he keeps hitting, he’ll find himself at MM at some point. Long term, I like Toro more, a Marvin type guy. And if Jake hits MLB pitching like he typically does, I think Straw makes him expendable at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Just a note which I’m sure most have researched it already:
    FA’s for 2020 – Cole, J Smith, C McHugh, Chirinos, Miley, Rondon, Harris
    2021 – Brantley, Reddick, Springer, Gurriel, Peacock
    2022 – Verlander, Osuna, Correa, LMJ, Devenski
    Out of these players who do we think we’ll try to retain or most likely to extend?
    2020 – McHugh, Miley
    2021 – Springer, Peacock
    2022 – Osuna, LMJ
    Just my opinion…

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  20. So Carlos sits today. Might as well move him to the DL and keep someone around for now who hit the heck out of the ball in ST. The cynic in me is rearing it’s ugly head again. I just don’t know how anyone could miss the opener due to a sore neck. Could he really be damaged goods? He looked so darn healthy all Spring! Besides the softie factor, there’s no way he’s pissed that Bregman got a big deal is there?

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  21. Dan P has been working his a$$et$ off at lunch and just finished a review of the AL West with predictions and hopefully it will get posted this afternoon. I’m excited for today’s face-off.
    I guess this is the first time that the Cy Young winner will face the Cy Young runner-up since 1979, when it happened in both leagues (and it will happen again today in both leagues). So, it is Snell – Verlander and deGrom – Scherzer – quite some matchups….

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      • its ok dave, speculate all you want to. it just rankles me sometimes when derogatory things are said or insinuated about our guys without much warrant.
        i dont like the derogatory nicknames about your nephew either (not just from you, as i think you are just having fun with it). but if he just HAS to have one, how about the obese beast or the blob slob.i like the shark thing alot better.

        Like

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