Are the Astros done looking at the outfield?

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?

56 comments on “Are the Astros done looking at the outfield?

  1. You may or may not want to read my last comment on your previous post. The thought came to me when GoStros1 suggested that the Astros may go with Straw/Diaz/McCormick in the outfield this coming season.

    Like

    • Here is the comment OP is referring to…

      1oldpro
      JANUARY 18, 2021 @ 11:28 AM
      You know, if the team stays the same for 2021 as it is now and they don’t get some outfielders, then that might mean there is a plan to rebuild.
      How do you do it?
      2021 ends and you give Correa a QO and he walks.
      You let LMJ walk.
      Let Greinke and JV walk.
      You don’t renew Gurriel and Pressly’s option and they walk.
      That’s everyone from the 2017 team gone except Bregman and Altuve, who are the only guys left with significant salaries and you make 2 blockbuster trades for high end prospects and your payroll is now at $0 dollars and there is nobody left from 2017 for anybody to call a cheater.
      You start over with Alvarez, Tucker, Straw and McCormick, Baez and all your young pitchers, a bunch of draft picks and prospects and about $200 million in luxury tax room and a new CBA.
      All the perpetrators from your scandal are now playing for other teams and you start over.
      If Click just lets this team go into 2021 without fixing itself, I could see this happening. I’m watching the Rockets and Texans doing it right now, so don’t tell me it couldn’t happen.

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      • Actually, this is not a bad thought process. Of course you don’t if this philosophy will be a hit or miss. I think if we came away with 50% of the mentioned guys becoming good everyday players I’d call that a success.
        If we haven’t tied down Correa or LMJ by starting day then I’d expect that they plan to go elsewhere. Therefore if we aren’t in contention, then trade them before the deadline. I don’t think that we’re going to be so bad that we can’t compete. Maybe no WS trophy but a respectable season or two and then right back into the elite teams. I don’t think we’ll return to the dark days of 2009 – 2013. At least I hope not.

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      • Well OP this is kind of return to bopert time?
        Pros for this theory
        1) Hey we know that Crane supported the out in the open, complete tear down of the Astros previously.
        2) We know that this scandal has really left bad marks on the franchise
        3) We know that Click comes from an organization that prided itself in being able to make lemonade from lemon seeds as far as budget goes
        4) We know as OP points out here, that it would not take much action (actually mostly inaction) to wipe the blackboard here and start over
        5) We know that Crane may be hurting financially (relatively) and is facing a season where 162 games are likely, but fannies in the seat are no sure thing

        Antis for this theory
        1) We know that Crane likes to win and supported the team as it raised its win total along with its payroll
        2) We know that this team came very close to going to the World Series even with an unbelievable amount of losses to their pitching last season
        3) We know that the Astros would seem to be a pretty darned competitive looking team as they stand right now and need a few tweaks to fill out the roster
        4) We expect that a lot of the guys who slumped last season should bounce back big time
        5) We have a heck of a controlled or controllable base to build around including Yordan, Tucker, Altuve, Bregman, Framber, Javier, Urquidy, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor
        6) We have a bunch of big arms on the cusp….

        I could see it either way.

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      • One of the problems I see with sticking a bandaid on the bullpen and not making any moves to replace your missing outfielders is the message you are sending to guys like Bregman and Altuve.
        The lack of willingness to add and compete and wasting a year of all these guys that you are paying big bucks to right now may not be a good message.
        That message is this: We are replacing Michael Brantley and George Springer with Myles Straw and Chaz McCormick. We’re in it to win it!

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  2. I still think Click will improve the club before Opening Day, but not if it means overpaying to get outfield help. I could see him going with what he’s got. And 1OP, much of what you envision will become reality. If McCullers puts together a big year, someone will give him a head shaker deal in 2022. But when think “rebuild”, crappy team comes to mind. I don’t think that has to be the case.

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  3. I’m actually more interested in OBP and defense from our outfielders than anything else. Get guys who will get on base and not hurt our pitching staff while in the field. Put the pressure on Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Tucker, and Alvarez to perform.

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  4. Maybe off subject, here’s a fellow I follow. With the discipline of Video Occlusion, hitters train to determine what the pitch is right out of his hand. This is how an aggressive hitter is taught to recognize sooner, and use the full length (not just width) of the plate. This is what we’re actively working hard with guys who have exceptional power inside the system, Lee, Daniels or Matijevic to name only a few.

    The San Jac coach told me one of his transfers was of the best power hitter he’s ever seen & the Astros got as undrafted in ’20 — anyone have a guess?

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  5. I always said Royce Lewis was a bust, btw. Wasn’t he like $8 million dollars? Wow. Here we are 5 yrs later and all they have is AA to show for it.

    I guess if you cost that much, you get an article written about you?

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    • I was just giving you time to answer, Op.

      Got me to thinking we could get 15 HR 100 TB in 220 ab’s from Ryan Zimmerman for $1M. When he DH’s, Yordan can play the field (maybe 30 games hidden in LF)? Ryan can play corner infield, and he has good plate discipline. Just a thought if we didn’t want to let Jones and Toro in ’21. Along the same lines of thinking Castro, instead of Stubbs. I figured we could sign Sandy Leon to MiLB if we really thought Papierski cannot handle #3. Not sure what the Aatros will do, but there’s lots of inventory from which to choose.

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  6. Since we are here, what is your definition of a five tool player? -Baseball America writer

    50+ across the board
    19.2%

    55+ across the board
    45.7%

    60+across the board
    35.1%

    My thinking is that if 50 “+” is better than average major league, then hit arm speed power and overall in all those should be 5 tools. I’d be surprised that Pedro Leon grades 55 across the board, for example, but the new wave of kids thinks 55 is the threshold. This points out the margins of differences of opinion in prospecting.

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    • MLB’s grades on Leon are:
      Hit-50
      Power- 55
      Arm-55
      Run- 55
      Field-55
      It is worth noting that these grades came out after Houston had an agreement with him. If any other team had signed him, I’m sure those grades would have been higher. Fangraphs raved about his power, speed and arm.
      The MLB writeup on him describes him as a plus runner, so I assume his 55-run score means that all of his 55 grades are plus grades.
      As far as his 50-hit tool I guess we will have to settle for his .359/.420/.638/1.058 career slash line in 258 PAs in the highest Cuban Professional league as merely above average. Of course, he was 19-20 years old and playing against players who averaged 9 years older than he. He also was named an All-Star there. Merely an above average hitter as a 19 year old.
      Click on his name on the list for his write-up and grades.
      https://www.mlb.com/prospects/international/pedro-leon-694175

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the same old thing OP. Supposed #1 (by MLB) Yoelkis (AKA Yoelqui) Cespedes also gets a 50 rating for hitting even though his career slash was .287/.352/ .769 in the same league including his age 20 season of .319/.355/ .749… I guess they rate him higher because of his brother???

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      • It would be an absolute dream come true if Leon could acclimate as quickly as Yuli. Hope I haven’t listened and weighed too heavily the wrong scouts. Gosh, I wonder if any Int’l players (and I know Leon is advanced for his age) have come right into the league of late?

        Tatis Jr. drafted 2015 debuted 2019
        Guerrero, Jr the same.
        Reds Aquino took 5 years from Dominican.

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      • Yeah, but….
        Tatis was 17 years old when he signed
        Vlad Jr. was also 17
        Aquino was 19

        So – I’m hoping that Leon at 22 might be farther down the line

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    • Considering that we (OMG!!) still owe Jon Singleton $250K this year, I am not worrying about the $4 MM given to somebody who has a lot of talent and is supposedly a high (in the good sense) character guy

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was back before the Astros knew anything about analytics, and it was 2m/yr, correct? Hey, at least it’s not Bobby Bonilla bad!

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      • I saw the ball come off Singleton’s bat. Our failure with him includes poor instruction. He should have been able to stick.

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  7. Slam Diego, more All-In acquire Joe Musgrove for a “bunch of prospects”.

    Joe gets to go back home. Maybe his workout buddy, Devo will join him on a NRI?

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  8. There goes Jon Lester on a 1-yr deal to Nats.

    Astros lost a shot at a guy I liked last Winter, Lucchesi (might’ve mentioned here).

    We past up offering prospects last year on Bundy. Never bid on FA, Pineda.
    I think it’s fair to say that Astros like what we have in the stable.

    Baseball America just ranked Forrest Whitley #80.
    Put me on record as saying that is a slap in the face!

    My projection in 2021
    30 innings 6 starts or less in Sugar Land
    65 IP; 3.50 ERA; 80 SO; 4-2 record in Houston
    Groomed, and brought along slowly. I’d keep him under 100 innings.

    I think Framber will win the innings battle.
    Who do you all think will? Urquidy maybe?

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    • Whether he’s a legit #80 or not, I think you can be more secure in the fact that he won’t be traded at this point. He’s not as valuable as he once one, regardless of what the reality is.

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      • True! MLB just did a piece on the Top 10 RHP prospects and he ain’t on it. Everyone except the Astros has moved on from Forrest Whitley.

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  9. Greinke had more than 200 innings in 5 of his last 6 seasons (not counting 2020 of course). He’s my pick to lead the team in innings pitched.

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    • I noted last week that Yuli played 15 minor league games before joining the Astros. Sure he had a decade more experience than Leon has, but did that make him a more MLB ready ballplayer? Pedro might need a year. He might need a month.

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  10. If Leon is not put on the AAA roster, he may not go to spring training at all until the Astros and their AAA club leave camp. That is MLB’s word. Because of the pandemic, they will only allow a certain amount of players in camp at the same time.
    Thus, there will be no minor league playoffs this year. Minor league clubs are set to play their seasons till the end of September.
    The Astros would be set to break camp at the end of March and start their season and at that time, there would be a cleanup at ST site and the lower minor leagues would start camp and rev up to start playing their regular season sometime in May.

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  11. After the Astros were penalized their first and second round picks for two years in a row in January, 2020, they regrouped and set out under Click to recoup those losses.
    A month later they worked out Leon in the Dominican and spent the majority of their International free agent money on him, a guy who was considered an
    equivalent to a first round pick in talent.
    Then they used their compensation pick from the loss of Cole to reach up and go above slot in the draft and grab Santos who graded out as high second round pick.
    Doing these two things, they did get those picks back.
    MLB turned things around on the Astro by flip-flopping the 2021 draft and the next year of International Free Agency to Jan 15th of 2022, but the Astros could try to duplicate their actions in July’s draft by using the same tactic, and then finding another top international free agent to pour the majority of their money into again.
    Chances are they can come up with more talent in this year’s draft because of the fact that a lot of college baseball players stayed in school, thus stacking the 2021 draft.
    We’ll see. Chances are the rest of the league will try to keep Houston from doing this two years in a row.

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  12. I wanted to throw cold water on my face when I realized that, if the scenario I painted about an Astros rebuild were to happen as I outlined above, Kyle Tucker would be the senior MLB player of the Astros. He made his debut in July of 2018. That preceded Framber by a month.

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  13. Springer to the jays….6YRS $150 million. I wish him well, he gave me a reason to watch (when I could) him play and gave all of us…ALL OF HIM❤
    My late husband was given a lung transplant in Toronto Canada July 13 1988 but passed away May 2 1989 from complications of rejection, so I have a soft spot for Canada. God bless George Springer he will always have my heart❤

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  14. I’m glad George has found his new home. There is no Astro I’ve been more fond of over the past few years. Never selfish, always hustled, sometimes to his own detriment. Never took a day off on the field. Kept his private thoughts away from the ballpark. If he has any negative thoughts on his years in Houston, we’ll likely never hear them. Loyal. Just a great guy. And now we can move on too. Click must have an outfield plan that he can try to execute now. I’m looking forward to seeing what our GM does next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said – I echo your thoughts. I’ll be checking the boxscore everyday to see how he does. If he can help Toronto beat the Yankees and Red Sox it will be fantastic. Also, Toronto is a great city and should be a wonderful place to live. It’s a bit more expensive than Houston, but George will have the money to make that work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Worked in Niagara Falls in the late 90’s but went to Toronto several times during my stay. It was a neat place then as I am sure it is now. Even went to a Blue Jays game. Fun Time. Would have been nice if we could have kept him but wish him well with his new team.

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