Every off season begins with a laundry list of decisions to be made by the front office on how the next season’s team (and onward) will be built. We have seen Jeff Luhnow progress from long term building during the dark days of 2011 to 2014 to short term “win now” decisions during the halcyon days of 2017 to 2019.
Now there is a new sheriff in town, because the old sheriff let the outlaws run the town. We don’t know new GM James Click very well. We know that the team he came from, the Tampa Bay Rays, are an up and comer with a team that has made it all the way to this year’s World Series by eliminating the Astros and which has been built on a much smaller budget than many other teams. We don’t know what Click will do in this off season situation because he’s never been a GM for a whole off season.
So after spending a short 2020 season bringing up young untested pitchers out of necessity, what does he face here in the off season leading into 2021.
- What to do about Roberto Osuna? OK, he made the obvious decision here by waiving Osuna, who would have gone to arbitration and a $10 million paycheck after pitching 4 innings last season and likely pitching none coming up.
- Extending qualifying offers to the free agents. Brad Peacock and Josh Reddick will not get QO’s. George Springer will definitely get a QO and turn it down. The real decision is on Michael Brantley and may well give us a hint on what economic restrictions the team is facing. The guess here is they will not offer the $18.9 MM to him and look to fill in more cheaply behind Springer and Brantley (though they may try to sign both in FA).
- What to do about Justin Verlander? I think it was friend of the blog old pro (if it’s someone else correct me) who suggested the Astros will likely waive JV to open a spot in the 40 man roster. With so many players eligible for the Rule 5 draft who have value that is a possibility and perhaps a probability.
- How to manipulate the 40 man roster for the Rule 5 draft? Well that certainly has already been happening. The four free agents above came off the 40 man the day after the World Series. Roberto Osuna, Dustin Garneau, Chris Devenski and Chase DeJong all cleared waivers and are free agents. Carlos Sanabria was claimed off waivers by the Royals. It will be interesting to see who (Forrest Whitley?) will now be put back on the 40 man and how many spots will be left open for other roster add-ons.
- What trades will be made and what will those tell us about the Astros’ future? Will they be trading veterans for prospects? Will they be trading prospects for veterans? This could come down to economics.
- Free agent signings….will they re-sign any of their own or find it too rich for their blood? Will they chase free agents from other teams? The suspicion here is that while the pandemic may not affect the high end free agents that much, there is likely going to be a glut of darned good, but not great veterans available and that their price will be depressed by the amount of talent available.
- There will be arbitration decisions to be made. Will there be any non-tenders? Well in reality the Astros have basically non-tendered Garneau, Devenski and DeJong by releasing them. Unless they sign extensions with them, the Astros will exchange arbitration figures with Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Aledmys Diaz.
- So will there be extensions signed? If they are truly losing Springer, you would think they would pull out the stops to sign Correa, who turned into a team leading monster in the playoffs and had a tremendous defensive season in 2020. Whether he has any interest in this when he only has to wait one more season for the big payday…hard to say. McCullers might well be interested in an extension and the team might move to sign the young veteran if they can find an agreement point. Diaz could get an extension, or they may see him as an often injured, stop gap in the utility spot.
- International signings beginning Jan 15….Will Pedro Leon get scooped up by the Astros as has been long thought and be the long term replacement for a Springer or Brantley in the outfield?
- How to set up another spring training and a re-start of minor league baseball with COVID possibly still active? This is a huge challenge just by itself.
In the end, I hope James Click is well paid, because he certainly will be earning it this off season. And we all hope he makes the right decisions for the team’s short term and long term health.