Into the future: How do You rate Astros’ areas of concern?

This post was inspired by a friend of the blog – Sarge H

For the time being the biggest area of concern is when and if the 2020 season will begin and end. But the Astros have a team that will be facing a lot of potential personnel changes in 2021 and 2022 due to free agency.

Here is one ranking of the potential changes/losses for the team over the next two seasons:

  1. Justin Verlander (Free Agent after 2021). Yes, it is always possible that fans will be hoping to get aging and injured JV off the payroll after the 2021 season, but he does give off a Nolan Ryan vibe that says he could do this well into his 40’s. No matter what happens over the next two seasons, Verlander has given the Astros his all to date.
  2. George Springer (FA after 2020). The loss of Springer is not just a physical or statistical loss, but also one of the heart. It has been apparent that he is the central emotional figure for this team and if he moves on it will be a two-fold loss for the team.
  3. Zack Greinke (FA after 2021). He is a critical bridging cog for the team as it moves on from the loss of Gerrit Cole and heads to a future likely led by youngsters. If he gives the Astros anywhere close to what he has produced the last 5 seasons, over the next two seasons, his loss would be large even at 39 years old.
  4. Michael Brantley (FA after 2020). If you were going to map out the first season with the Astros for Brantley, what he actually produced was as good as could be anticipated (.311 BA/ .875 OPS / 88 runs/ 22 HRs/ 90 RBIs). He will be a tough loss for the team if he leaves.
  5. Lance McCullers Jr. (FA after 2021). This seems like way too soon for Lance to hit free agency, but he was in the majors for 4 seasons and spent the 5th on the IL. He is not quite as important as Verlander and Greinke, but he still needs to show health over a full season and frankly needs to run with the #3 spot in the rotation.
  6. Carlos Correa (FA after 2021). Depending on what Correa does over the next 2 seasons (OK next 1-1/2 seasons) losing him could fly towards the top of this list or possibly fall off it. Yes, Alex Bregman could move over to SS and a 3B is easier to find, but when Correa is playing healthy he is one of the best SS in the game.
  7. Yuli Gurriel (FA after 2020). He turns 36 in early June, but still it is a puzzlement why the Astros converted his contract over so that he is a FA after 2020 rather than having some arbitration years. He has been good over the last few seasons and took his game to another level in 2019. The answer to this may be as simple as two words – Taylor Jones.
  8. Ryan Pressly (FA after 2021). He has been tremendous for the Astros since coming over from the Twins. Except for his knee problem, he was easily the most effective reliever over the last two seasons.
  9. Roberto Osuna (FA after 2021). He has been very good at times for the Astros and worry at others. Isn’t that the definition of a closer? He could be a trade chip along the way or he could end up being replaced by some youngster (can you say Bryan Abreu) before his time ends here.
  10. Brad Peacock (FA after 2020). Since grabbing a full-time roster spot with his terrific 2017 season, Peacock has been the pitching equivalent of Marwin Gonzalez as a Swiss Army knife utility-wise. In the last three seasons, he has started 37 games, pitched out of the bullpen 81 times and finished games 28 times. He might have to be replaced by two pitchers….
  11. Joe Smith (FA after 2021). He pitched OK in 2018 and in 2019 after returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon he pitched excellently. He will be expected to pick up the slack with Hector Rondon and Will Harris gone.
  12. Martin Maldonado (FA after 2021). The Astros have turned over the catcher and backup catcher spots more than any other on the roster since turning the cornerback in 2015. Martin could well end up the backup rather than starter before his time is up.
  13. Josh Reddick (FA after 2020). In many people’s minds, Josh is already gone, because they see Kyle Tucker as the heir apparent. Plus, Reddick just came off a very ineffective season and is costing more than most folks think he is worth. Of course, injuries or poor play by others could make the Astros glad they have him for one more season.
  14. Chris Devenski (FA after 2021). Devo will have to pitch better to even make it to the 2021 season with the team. If he could return to some of that 2016 and 2017 magic, he could move up this list – but a repeat of 2018 or 2019 and he may be Gone Boy Gone.
  15. Joe Biagini (FA after 2020). A betting person would say that unless he figures something out – he will not even start the 2020 season with the Astros.

There you have it – all the players the Astros could possibly lose over the next 2 season by way of free agency.

  • How would you rank them in the size of the lost?
  • Who do you think they will re-sign or possibly extend?
  • Who do you want to see gone?

36 comments on “Into the future: How do You rate Astros’ areas of concern?

    • My father-in-law is a CPA who has been fortunate enough to have a few NFL and NBA players as clients over the years. Now, they didn’t make him rich, but he’s come away with some excellent stories. However, almost all of his clients ended up squandering their salaries. There was one whose mother got involved because she was certain his agent was stealing money…there was no other explanation for where those funds went. Turns out it was paying the tab for his entourage to travel with him during the season. I don’t want to sound sympathetic to millionaires only getting paid $4,750 per day while people are unable to even connect to their unemployment offices via phone, but there are a surprising number of these guys who are making obscene amounts of money but effectively are broke.

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  1. I am proud to be considered a friend here on the blog.

    Ranking by size of loss:
    1. George Springer because of his heart being the heart of this team.
    2. Justin Verlander because his heart is big enough to will the team to a win. Recall his coming out of the dressing room, during the ’17 World Series at LA and yelling at the team to do not accept defeat and win the game. And they DID!!!
    3. Michael Brantley aka Mr. Professional Hitter. ‘Nuff said!
    4. Carlos Correa does, indeed, have his ups and down but those ups… and that laser gun on his right shoulder, a thing of beauty as he, in a relay, takes a throw from the outfield and fires a laser beam to the plate to nap an unsuspecting runner.
    5. Zack Greinke seems, IMHO, to use smoke and mirrors. A true magician. Just keep it going my man, keep it going.
    6. Ryan Pressley is dynamite. I hope he can continue at an All Star pace for a while longer.
    7. Lance McCullers has to prove that he has matured, between the ears, and can remain healthy for a couple of seasons. He has the tools, he just needs to put it all together.
    8. Yuli Gurriel has quietly put together a very good major league career. I would like to see him stay for another period of about three years.
    9. Brad Peacock has earned his keep by bouncing between being a starter and a ‘pen arm. I never would have thought he would become this valuable when we traded for him.
    10. Joe Smith has a delivery that concerns me. Any sidewinder does that. But hey, it works for him and let’s ride it while we can.
    11. Roberto Osuna who is a figurative high wire walker. Even though he led the league in saves last year, he gave us heart flutters when he pitched. I believe we can find another shut-the-door closer.
    12. Josh Reddick, who wears his heart on his sleeve, has seen a severe drop in his offensive out put but that defense!! How many runs has he saved from scoring from his diving catches to his acrobatic leaps at the outfield fences to rob hitters of homeruns! Great arms as well. But, we need a offense from the position.
    13. Chris Devinski has been on the downhill side for a couple of seasons now. His sidestepping style after his delivery drives the missus and I crazy as we watch the ball dance wide of the plate. We will not miss him when he leaves.
    14. Martin Maldonado is really falling of the proverbial cliff. But the pitching staff enjoys throwing to him. To me, the sheer joy that he expressed, upon returning to the Astros dugout last year, always brings a smile to my tired face. https://www.mlb.com/video/maldonado-joins-astros-in-dugout
    15. Joe Biagini, why is he on the roster again, please???

    I feel Springer will be extended and Verlander, if he remains healthy, Correa, and McCullers will be approached about extending. Brantley should be offered an extension as well.

    Everyone else can move on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah Sarge, George has been the real soul of this club. I hesitate to say this, but right now, America has a whole lot to get through before we can even think about playing baseball again this year. I don’t know. One potential outcome is that fans across the country won’t get to see their favorite players wear home whites again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarge – I went to St Thomas High School back in the 1970’s. It started off in 1900 in downtown Houston. In 1940 they took a big risk and way out and built the school in the woods at Memorial and Shepherd. The students worked to clear the land. Everyone thought they were nuts – that was way out beyond the boundaries of your map and now it is considered inner city.
      Funny

      Liked by 1 person

    • “In a box somewhere” I have a slide taken of Buffalo Stadium from the brand new Gulf Freeway (circa about 1956). Followed by another slide of the brand new and not completed Gulfgate Shopping Center. (At least that is what my memory tells me).

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    • Just wanted to say thanks for uploading the old picture! It’s amazing how much the area has changed over the years. I remember having to navigate using an old key map in a plastic binder that was slightly out of date. I tried to get my kids to use a paper map from AAA last summer on a road trip and it didn’t go well.

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  3. Nary a freeway on your map, Sarge. Things have changed, eh?
    I remember several years ago seeing a map of Houston’s future freeway system prepared by TxDOT in about 1965. It was almost EXACTLY what had transpired 50 years later. Amazing how accurate it was. Wondering if TxDOT has one of those for 50 years from now?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. As to the team in 2023 and beyond, it will be totally rebuilt due to salaries and age. Long ago, I posted that with drafts toward the end of each round, and escalating salaries, Luhnow would prove or fail to prove that he was a great GM. Maybe he got lucky and gave that problem to Click. And now compounded with the lack of draft picks we must assume.

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    • Responding to your comment, AC, and the others-

      There will only be 5 rounds in Amateur draft, Astros beginning #74 will get 3 picks. Hence, that aspect of the punishment won’t be so lopsided. The int’l draft will probably be moved to Winter of 2020-2021, so that would still allow us to draft Leon and others to bolster our farm.

      Although our prospect ranks have fallen (Fangraphs put out an interesting article today), we have very many moveable pieces who are blocked in Houston. Some notable examples are; Nova, Toro and Cionel Perez. What you should notice is how much money other teams have in their prospects, and how the Astros develop with pennies on the dollar. After building the best farm in Tampa, with Click in-house, expect more of the same.

      https://blogs.fangraphs.com/in-progress-farm-system-rankings-are-now-on-the-board/

      Matt Collier (expert Pitching scout) listed Top 150 prospect pitchers — Astros and Twins only teams with 4 entries.

      We still have a core leadership going back to the 2015 loss, so even if Click and Baker cannot themselves commandere this season, the players are anxious to rectify 2019 title. It plays into galvanizing our core, rather than folding under vitriolic fans, based on Correa’s comments to paraphrase, ‘if you don’t know what went on…stay out of it.’ Them’s fightin’ words! They are not backing down.

      There probably is some real worry between 2023-2026, when SI predicts the Astros to win it all again. But starting in 2021 (because of the way this season has played out, and missing the tax threshold), we can begin to spend again. That may mean that instead of having to choose 1 of 3 between Correa Springer and Brantley, we might offer 2 of them long-term deals.

      Keeping Alvarez healthy and bringing the pitching online should make up for big question marks. My own personal belief is McCullers will come back stronger, and re-signing him will anchor us in the questionable years.

      https://houston.sportsmap.com/the-return-lance-mccullers-jr?fbclid=IwAR2Y5Eeo75mFwZ_ARZrwCozlMgv00UCciQjPC_ecLIzA-8sqZMSm1HCbdck

      We are still an elite team, and positioned well, despite the obvious scapegoating the league has undergone. Now that lawsuits are coming down the pike from the gambling alliances (MGM and Draft Kings), isn’t it rather obvious Manfred is holding on to the Red Sox report? What a sham operation Rob Manfred is running! We’ll get through it, in spite of him.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Dan with your faithful blog, it certainly helps keep a bit of normalcy to our lives, I have kept up with two sports blogs in my life, This one and Dandy Don LSU sports, I read Dandy Don each morning and always read this one. In this sad time with the pandemic (my sister Cheryl has it in Seattle, but seems to be recovering) and a sports void , I really appreciate your efforts.

    As to what the major concerns for the Astros: I would somehow get Springer signed for multiple years and go from there. Signing Springer would have a huge impact for lifting fans loyalty to the team and be uplifting for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Larry – we pray for the health of everyone here on the blog and we will add your sister Cheryl to our prayer list.
      Yeah it would mean a lot to re-sign Springer. Would it be the smartest baseball move? I don’t know – it might be an anchor 4 seasons down the road. Does Springer harbor any resentment towards the organization for delaying his call-up? Does Crane feel he needs to throw the fans a very large bone for losing half a season and the shame of the tainted championship? Is this Crane’s call or Click’s call? Does Springer love it so much he will pass up some money or years if it came to it?
      Big decision all the way around

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m in agreement that retaining Springer is the priority. Regarding whether he harbors resentment, that’s a tough one. A lot of players have been outspoken (crybabies?) like Kris Bryant. My opinion is it’s not much different than sportswriters complaining that Christian Yelich cost himself 8 figures by signing team friendly extensions and contrasting it with what Cody Bellinger will make. The biggest contracts aren’t really healthy for the game. Scott Bora$ can disagree, but even if we get fans back in stadiums this year there will probably be more empty seats than usual as people without jobs can’t afford a few hundred dollar trip to see their team play. At some point, the declining TV viewership will take it’s toll as well and we’ll actually see teams losing money. Springer is making a lot of money and is going to get some big offers. The only question is if what he deems fair payment is in line with Crane’s budget.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been reading…..but I’m more concerned about an invisible enemy that’s trying to kill everybody in the world right now. My husband and I are in that age group that’s not had very good outcomes. I just wish my kids could have come home…..I miss them so much😭

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ll say this about George. If there is any resentment, he’s never shown it, never expressed it. He’s been a consummate professional always, never dogged it on the field, and most always given us a wonderful dose of joyful.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I would have a long talk with Springer about staying here. He is so much of the “core 4” it would kill me if he left. Staying together will be a HUGE problem for these guys. The fans would support them so much more if they stayed together. Only reason (other than money) I could think he would want to move on is his name associated with this cheating scandal. He might want to distance himself from it. If we could keep Uncle Mike for one more year that might change Georges mind. I’m not going to pretend what pitchers will stay, the only starter we will keep for the next few years is McCullers….after him it’s a crap shoot. Sorry for the pity party, but baseball has kind of taken a back seat for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rating area’s of concern involving players:
    1. Starting outfield in 2021.
    2. Starting SS in 2022.
    3. Starting pitching in 2022.
    4. Back of the bullpen in 2022.
    We cannot fret over losing 2 starting pitchers who are in their late 30’s and were costing the team almost $60 million per year in the final two years of their contracts. What you do is try to develop or acquire pitchers to effectively replace them with when they leave. You want to plan for that and get their replacements for a helluva lot less money.
    The big deal is to find a good outfield for 2021 for a lot less money than the 3 players you will field in 2020. Tucker needs to replace Reddick by 2021. You need to pay for a really good hitter to replace one of Springer/Brantley in the outfield and you need to replace the other with a really good fielder who is not a wormhole in the lineup.
    Try to sign Springer. If you can’t extend him, give him a QO. Then try to sign him.
    The Astros have two years to try and find a SS in the system to take Correa’s place after the 2021 season. If not, they have to go get one. The important thing to remember is that they have Bregman, Altuve and Alvarez in the lineup for years. That’s a core. The trick is to surround them with good players for the next five years.
    Maybe the Dodgers and Yankees have the resources to carry a $260 million payroll for several years in a row. The Astros do not. They can afford to have a big payroll this year. Starting in 2021 they have to cut back

    Liked by 1 person

    • Upgrades?

      –2021 Astros Outfield
      Starters: Straw ($600K) Springer ($24M) Tucker ($600K).
      Reserves: Diaz (3M), Alvarez (1M), McCormick (600K), Stubbs (600K).

      I’d offer Brantley 2/yrs $28M, and he’ll walk for something similar elsewhere. The writing will be on the wall that there are 2, or 3 good OF prospects, and the team cannot tie up so much in the OF, while maintaining elite pitching.

      Make an effort to trade for Mitch Haniger ($4M) in his last yr before arb, which would be a perfect bridge to Leon / Meyers / De la Cruz / McCormick / Brewer / Barber and James Nix in 2023.

      Cuban Oscar Colas is a two-way player like Ohtani, and worked out for Astros in Dominican. He will be very pricey, but Luhnow Ocampo kept a nice pipeline with Cionel, Armenteros and Quintana. Another less familiar Cuban, who grades out well in metrics, LHRP Julio Robaina (age 19).

      –Starting SS in 2022 is probably Alex Bregman, until the target Jeremy Pena is ready. We would have Straw, and if we signed Diaz thru 2022 as a Marwin role, that would be ample back-up. If Correa puts up a 5+ WAR a season in 2021, and he wanted to stay, the Astros would be crazy not to make a competitive offer. Freudis Nova has a rocket arm but must make huge strides by then to be in the conversation, and I’d trade him if he doesn’t improve power, before he has no value, a la, expensive Anibal Sierra, or Duery Carrasco (like Mier, and Ovando).

      We have two others with high upside in Yohander Martinez and switch-hitting, Dauri Lorenzo ($1.8M),

      We also have solid 3B depth to move Bregman over in Toro, Taylor Jones and Tanielu. Taylor Jones had some of the highest exit velocities in all of AAA.

      –Starting Pitching in 2022. Such a volatile position throwing the ball so hard nowadays, best guess at this point.

      McCullers, Solis, Whitley, Urquidy, James, Ivey, Bielak, Valdez, Javier, Paredes, Brown, JA Rivera (Top 12)

      I could see us adding a FA, but here is another potent list of up and down pitchers in 2022.

      Abreu, Torres, Garcia (led all MiLB K/9), Conine, Armenteros, Solomon, N. Rodriguez, Dubin, Blake Taylor, Cionel Perez, Sneed, Henley, Hansen, Gusto, Sanabria, Bellozo, Jairo Lopez (Top 17).

      Don’t forget to factor Brent Strom in their development, and I believe these are all still in the conversaton.

      Brett Daniels, Cody Deason, Chad Donato, Parker Mushinski, Franny Cobos, Garrett Gayle, Yeremi Caballos, Alfredi Jimenez, Alex Palmer, Humberto Castellanos, RJ Freure, Colin McKee, Andre Scrubb, Willie Collado, Nick Hernandez, Manny Ramirez, Felipe Tejada. Jeremy Molero led all DSL pitchers in K’s. Brett Adcock had a bad year, but 4th round Michigan made big strides this off season.

      Let’s talk about any of these!

      –OP, Astros will avoid the financial constraints that would have tied our hands in 2021. They won’t be in 2nd tier tax, and 2nd concurrent year penalty. The shortened season means we can spend in 2021, after all.

      People say we need an arm, or another bat every year. But, honestly there’s no room for Toro if we dont trade Rojas; or Straw if we don’t trade Jake. No room for Tucker if we don’t trade Beer, and no room for Urquidy if Valdez doesn’t have options. It’s a real juggling act, packed in like sardines, other teams took us in Rule 5. One would think Click is salivating every time he answers a reporter like Jonathon Mayo by saying, “I don’t think we have a watered-down farm system at all.” We at least have some great trade pieces, as the league is strewn with ex-Astros who never could carve out a starting role. (Grossman, Shuck is now pitching, Laureano, Davis, Kemp, Marisnick)

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  10. Dan, perhaps a post of some kind where our friends can post their favorite players, of all time, from other teams. A list of each team and who, on those teams, are their most likable player.

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  11. Meant to post above under Sandy’s comment, but messed up. As to what to expect financially, we just need to look at some of those seasons that were cut short for some reason, and people quit going. I think when this Covid-19 goes away, and I hope sooner and not later, we will find all sort of changes from more home schooling to more binge watching of TV. And of course, many eating habits will change because some will not be able to open again. Some changes will be welcome and good, and many will be unwelcome and painful. That includes Major and Minor League Baseball.

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  12. Boy….I read an interview with Gattis yesterday and he didn’t hold back about “it”. He basically said the guys were “drunk” on stealing signs. He didn’t mention Beltran or Cora, but took total responsibility about “it”. He was pretty remorseful about what happened, to the fans here in Houston and the opposing teams. He’s out of baseball now, so I guess he needed to get it off his chest.
    And boy did he EVER get it off his chest. Lots of “f” bombs.
    I sent Mr. Manfred another Becky email this afternoon..in *B O L D* letters😠

    Liked by 2 people

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