There is no doubt that the Astros’ 2021 bullpen was an area that needed shoring up after a freefall from a top bullpen in 2019 to a middle of the pack unit in 2020. The bullpen has added Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez, will see the return of Joe Smith and there have been a number of rumors about the team chasing a closer like Brad Hand, Alex Colombe, Trevor Rosenthal, or Joakim Soria.
But the “sexy” area of the team that needs a boost is the outfield. George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick have all entered the hazy world of free agency taking with them 2019 WARs of 6.4, 4.8 and 1.4 respectively (we will skip the hard to decipher 2020 stats). There were some early articles stating the Astros interest in Brantley, but it has been very quiet since and all indications are that neither Springer nor Reddick will be returning with Springer being the big loss of those two.
The existing team cupboard is not bare, but is suspect:
Kyle Tucker. After a breakout 2020, Tucker is the only outfielder where his name is on the imaginary lineup card in ink rather than pencil. He had a solid season where he was one of the team leaders in most offensive categories with 33 runs, 9 HRs, 42 RBIs, 8 SBs and a .268 BA/.325 OBP/ .837 OPS slash.
Yordan Alvarez. His 2019 Rookie of the Year performance was followed up by a 2020 season derailed by procedures on both knees. He will definitely be on the lineup card every night, but most nights that will be in the DH spot, not in LF.
Myles Straw. He was pretty good in an extended cameo in 2019 with a solid slash of .269 BA/ .378 OBP/ . 721 OPS and 27 runs scored in only 108 ABs. He was God awful in a similar stand in 2020 where his .244 on-base percentage and a propensity to strike out five times more often than he walked stood out. The Astros will likely give him a shot at one of the 4 OF spots in 2021, but the leash may be a bit short on him.
Aledmys Diaz. Diaz might be used like Marwin Gonzalez was when he started 38 times in LF in 2017 and 65 times in 2018 for the ‘Stros. This would certainly help out with this major OF overhaul. The biggest question about Diaz, who has played some LF for the Astros, is his availability. He has missed as many games as he has played the last two seasons with injuries.
Chas McCormick. McCormick is considered the most major league ready of their minor leaguers having played 57 games at AAA in 2019 and obviously spending time in the full season camps last year. His numbers at Round Rock in 2019 were decent (.262 BA/ .347 OBP/ .813 OPS with 10 HRs and 44 RBIs) in those 57 games.
Pedro Leon. The signing of 22 y.o. Cuban Pedro Leon was long expected and comes as a real depth boost to the outfield position. His pedigree from Cuba is excellent and he was considered by Baseball America as the top International talent available. But having said that, will he do what Yuli Gurriel did not do and make a jump straight into the majors without some time in the minors? Well, if you were going to pick a situation where that might happen, this is the one.
Jose Siri. In a minor move this offseason, the Astros picked up Siri out of the Reds organization (after waiver pickups and releases by the Mariners and the Giants). He is coming off a nice run in the Dominican League playoffs in their Winter League. But when you come down to it, he has played only 30 games at the AAA level in 2019 and not a very good stay there (.186 BA/ .252 OBP/ .497 OPS). He has supposedly changed up his swing (J.D. Martinez anyone?) and again is facing a very open situation with the Astros.
There have been vague rumblings that the Astros have had an interest (along with other teams) in a trade for Red Sox OF Andrew Benintendi. But whether the Astros have enough interest to outbid other teams AND meet the Red Sox desires is pretty doubtful.
There has been some thought that the Astros will go into 2021 as is. That is a little scary considering that the 7 outfielders listed above have 119 major league starts between them (Tucker – 73, Straw – 33, Alvarez – 9, Diaz – 4). It seems almost impossible that the Astros would enter the season without at least one additional experienced major league outfielder in the mix. Whether by trade or by free agency there are OFs available and the longer the off-season malaise drags the more affordable some of those free agent OFs become.
Some of the OFs still out there include Jackie Bradley Jr. and Yasiel Puig, who have been linked to the Astros earlier in the off-season. Jake Marisnick has a history here of great defense and mixed offense. Perhaps someone like Eddie Rosario as a higher-end choice is a better option.
Here is the free agent tracker from MLB Trade Rumors with those who have signed and those still out there.
Where do you stand on this situation?
- Do you want them to re-sign any or all of George Springer, Michael Brantley or Josh Reddick (just joshing on Josh), money be damned?
- Do you want them to wing it? Go into the 2021 season with what they have on hand right now?
- Do you want them to bring in a couple low-end OFs? One higher-end OF?
- Would you rather they spend the money on a catcher or another starting pitcher or a closer?