While most of the Astros’ fandom is concerned about the outfield situation with George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all joining the free agent market, Manager Dusty Baker showed the kind of wisdom you expect from someone who has been around the majors for about 50 years as a player, coach and manager.
He is concerned most about pitching heading into his second season as the Astros manager and who could blame him. Sure, he is also concerned about the potential holes in the outfield, but he knows you can never have enough pitching. His one season with the Astros proved that…
- The Astros lost co-ace Gerrit Cole, Will Harris, Hector Rondon and Collin McHugh to free agency before the 2020 season ever began
- Justin Verlander. the 2019 Cy Young stud pitched 6 innings for the 2020 Astros before being shut down and eventually lining up to miss the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery
- Roberto Osuna. The Astros closer only pitched in 4 games due to injury
- Brad Peacock. The swingman deluxe only pitched in 3 games due to injury
- Josh James as supposed to be in the rotation, started two games, was moved to the bullpen, pitched poorly, spent a few weeks on the injured list and pitched a bit better down the stretch
- Joe Smith. key leverage guy out of the bullpen opted out of pitching in 2020 due to family concerns and COVID
- Jose Urquidy. was likely going to pitch out of the third or fourth spot in the rotation missed the first month and a half of a short season likely due to COVID.
- Austin Pruitt. was signed to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation or be a swingman out of the bullpen never threw a pitch for the big team due to injury
And of course, Dusty now faces 2021 with Osuna, Peacock and Chris Devenski all likely gone as free agents (if the first two are healthy enough to pitch at all) and Verlander missing the season on the mend.
Sure, the Astros had strong contributions from unexpected places in 2020. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier were the best two starters they had. Brandon Bielak (half time) and Luis Garcia made some solid starts, too. Brooks Raley, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, and Andre Scrubb came out of nowhere (well Raley came from Cincinnati, which I think is near nowhere) to make notable contributions out of the bullpen.
Baker has been around long enough to know a few things. One is that even when you have five solid starters on paper (Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Valdez, Javier, and Urquidy), that you will need more options for the rotation in a 162 game season. He realizes that there is no guarantee that the relievers, who filled in well for small (20 or so innings) samples, will not regress, will not be figured out and will not break down.
So rightfully, he would like to see some veteran help for both the rotation and the bullpen. He really is not saying that he doesn’t trust Ryan Pressly to be his shutdown closer, but I am sure he would be quite happy if he could wave in Pressly in the 8th inning and Liam Hendriks in the 9th.
Dusty Baker is pretty smart. He knows that pitching depth butters his bread.