Astros 2021: How well did the Astros address their needs?

This is really a post about GM James Click and how he has addressed the Astros needs heading into Spring Training. Reading the tea leaves, it seems likely the Astros are done making moves this off-season based on statements Click has made and the proximity of the team to the luxury tax limit. They may make some minor pickups on some bargains heading into Spring Training, but any larger move at this point would be a surprise.

Click did not get the opportunity to address the team’s needs from scratch the last off-season. By the time he took over as GM at the end of January, all the heavy work of shaping the roster had been completed. Even during the season, the fans did not see much of Click in action as he addressed the pitching staff being ravaged by illness and injury with mostly internal moves, the minor trade for Brooks Raley and waiver signing of Chase DeJong being the exceptions.

Heading into the full off-season of 2021, Click had both a list of needs and the responsibility for addressing those needs. How did he do?

Catching. Martin Maldonado made the vast majority of starts in 2020, because he was the best option and because he was not going to get burned out playing in 47 of the 60 games. Still, based on the poor performances of backups Dustin Garneau and Garrett Stubbs (in admittedly very few ABs), the Astros needed to address either getting someone to be the backup or starting catcher for a full 162 game season.

The Astros did not make the big splash of signing a J.T. Realmuto or a medium splash of signing James McCann. They signed former Astro Jason Castro to a two year / $7 MM (with incentives) contract. This gave the Astros a solid veteran with good defensive skills and a left-handed bat, who undoubtedly will platoon quite a bit with Maldonado. This also allows them to have this veteran in 2022 when Maldonado becomes a free agent.

Grade. B- The Astros are in better shape this season at catcher than they were last year, but not elite.

Bullpen. Heading into 2021, the Astros lost (or were likely to lose) Brad Peacock, Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, and Joe Biagini (a minus is a plus) to free agency or release. Now granted they only pitched 14.2 innings cumulatively in 2020 for the Astros. Additionally, the Astros are not sure when and if Josh James will return from hip surgery.

Now the appearance in 2020 of rookies Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, and Andre Stubbs, the pick up of Raley, and the expected return of veteran Joe Smith from self-quarantine make the need to fill all those bullpen spots less of a need. But still, the bullpen was lacking a true closer and was short on veteran arms behind new closer Ryan Pressly.

Click made two direct moves on the bullpen as he picked up veterans Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez as free agent pieces to fit into the late-inning mix in the bullpen. He has not made a move to pick up another closer and has indicated that he believes there can be multiple closers or closers developed from within. It is quite possible that Baez could help out in the closer’s role or that Paredes might pick up some saves.

It would have been nice to see a Brad Hand or Liam Hendriks signed for the back end closer, but Click is asking us to believe in a formula that his former team the Rays successfully have followed.

Grade. B – This writer is willing to give Click the benefit of the doubt as he would love to see one of the young guys develop into a closer, too,

Outfield. Between losing Jake Marisnick after 2019 and potentially losing George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick after 2020, the Astros have been having to replace 4 outfielders who totalled 1847 ABs, 85 HRs and 276 RBIs in 2019. The Astros started the OF transformation in 2020 as Kyle Tucker reached out and grabbed one of the starting corner OF spots. Click took care of the other corner spot by re-signing Brantley for two more seasons at $16 MM per year, though admittedly he will need to sit a bit more as he grows older. This leaves the CF spot and the 4th OF spot to be filled.

Click has put forth that Myles Straw and Chas McCormick are the main candidates to take those two spots, though it is likely that both Yordan Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz will help out to fill that 4th OF spot. Click went out and picked up OFs Jose Siri and Steven Souza Jr. on minor league contracts. The potentially biggest move Click made in the long term was signing 5 tool OF Pedro Leon out of Cuba.

Fans may be upset that Click did not re-sign George Springer to a huge contract that probably extends to a point where he is a burden, or they may be mad that he has not gone and picked up Jackie Bradley Jr. who thinks he is worth more money and more years than he probably is worth. But if the plan is to fill in for 2021, while Leon gets ready to be the long term centerfielder, he may have played it just right in bringing back Brantley and planning on backfilling with multiple parts until Leon is ready.

Grade. B – This grade may go to A if Leon is who we think he is.

So far, all things considered, Click has done a solid job of picking up reasonably priced assets, while he waits for a ton of money to come off the books after the 2021 season.

52 comments on “Astros 2021: How well did the Astros address their needs?

  1. My grades will go up if Siri was signed to replace Straw who had negative WAR, a minus rating in fielding and a 40 wRC+ in 2020 and zero HRs. I mean, is there anybody out there who really wants a starting CFer who cannot hit HRs or drive in runs. We are talking about putting a guy who hits like Roger Metzger out there to replace Springer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you are going to sign a FA guy who can play CF and you don’t want to pony up for Bradley Jr, Jake is about as good as is out there

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  2. We have worn out the fact that “the minors” seem to not have much impact on how a player performs in “the majors.” But I like to compare stats that mean nothing anyway. Please check out Myles Straw in the minors compared to Jake in the minors. If you can’t hit any better and with less power than Jake, you might not be a good investment.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=marisn001jac
    https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=straw-000myl

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    • Word Press does not like me anymore. I posted this three times before it would show once. Turned off my computer, back on, back off, and back on. After the third time, it posted twice. As you can see, the posts were re-typed and don’t match. I am blaming this on Dave because he causes trouble wherever he goes.

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  3. My issue with Straw is that while he runs fast, (a lot of guys can do that) there is no part of his game that really impresses me. I don’t even think he can lay down a bunt. And that should certainly be a part of his particular game.

    I don’t know enough about McCormick or Siri, other than what their minor league stats say. For both guys, MLB is still a pretty big leap I think. But as I said above, I just don’t think Click is going to trust any of the present names in center as we enter the season, unless one of them really has a heck of a spring.

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  4. The Astros were in great shape in centerfield 2019 and before. Reddick, Marisnick and Springer all could play the position well. Now they are cut back. We know Straw can play center field, but he is not as good a fielder as these other three. We think guys like Siri and McCormick and Leon can play there but have not seen them do it. In 6 seasons, Souza has played 8 games in centerfield (and had 2 errors in 10 chances -though they could have been throws). He is a right fielder.
    I, like Daveb, think they will pick up somebody with CF experience before Spring Training, but I will be very surprised if it costs them more than 2 or 3 MM.

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      • Josh is at Crosby Sports Complex this week.
        I will assume he hasn’t sold home and moved wife and sons back to Georgia, until they get thier assignment this season. I’ll further guess he will get in the $2.7 – $3.2m range, and it won’t be here.

        Astros are done with any big moves. I love the team roster as is. Sends a clear message to prospect that Front Office feels the same. I’m a minority here, so I won’t belabor it.

        On life, I started a new backyard garden building company, busying with that. My next Astros project will be collaborating on Top 30 after Spring gives us a better idea of how those who weren’t able to play competitively in ’20 show out. A few names I’ll be closely looking at; Blair Henley, Tyler Ivey and Austin Hansen on pitching side; Jake Meyers, Jake Adams and Colin Barber on position side to name a few.

        I was able to hear a little bit of the Whitley interview and he confirmed my exact comment here that he’s working on paring down his arsenal and tweaking his pitch mix. He said he expects a good season, and career. I was also happy to be wrong in my debate with Kaplan, who claimed Astros would have brought him up last season without shoulder injury. That made no sense to me when he came into Fall Instructionals and wiped everybody out. But, it’s not the first time he’s bounced back quickly & did what he had to do to stay on 2021 schedule.

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  5. Just killing time in the office right now. In 2018/2019;

    Jake had a 3.5 O/D combined WAR for 4.112 million
    Josh had a 1.8 O/D combined WAR for 26.0 million

    So if the Correa’s, Bregman’s and Altuve’s in the clubhouse are okay with Jake coming back, we could probably expect something in the 1.5 plus range combined WAR from him in 2021. Even at 4 million, isn’t that worth it? For an excellent CF, even as offensively challenged as Jake is?

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  6. With all the FA signing by the Mets, they have to be the NL favorite, right? And the cherry on top of the dessert, they have now signed Jonathan Villar. No reason to play this season, just pencil in the Mets for the World Series with that blockbuster move.

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      • Odd they don’t want to continue universal DH. I’ve read it’s based on Owner greed of paying or allowing one more player, that they don’t want to concede anything until CBA as a bargaining chip. Watch for that to be on the table again next year.

        It’s apparent to me none of the major sports poll, or honestly consider what fans are in favor of.

        I won’t get into the handling of NPI’s and protocols because I know there’s a passionate divide on that subject, but seems to me the most vital issue facing baseball is poor umpiring. They can sway the outcomes of games so easily, and there’s nothing anyone can do. Even when they have the technology to assist the ump on balls & strikes, they cloak themselves whenever it suits their purpose of keeping old ways in place. Clearly, they do this willy nilly and make up the rules as they go along.

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      • My bigger gripe is that we have so many plays reviewed. Each time it gets sent to NY so they can wake someone up, download the video over a 56k modem, and watch the play a few times. Part of my problem is it feels like the vast majority of the calls sent to replay do get overturned. Clearly it’s important to get the call right, but most times we know within 5 seconds whether it should be overturned. There is no reason to waste so much time when we’re trying to speed up games, right?

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      • Responding, Devin — we wait all year for baseball to get here, and then fans want the games to be over quicker. You mention wanting them to get it right, but then get impatient over an extra minute? Adding, there’s an issue with starting a runner on 2B in extras. I’m lost on the rationale here, unless perhaps . . . an east coast concern on the lateness of west coast games?

        Liked by 1 person

      • With all that extra inning garbage, we might as well flip a coin or just declare the home team the winner after 9. We didn’t fare too well last year with the extra inning BS.

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      • I don’t like the extra inning rule. I could understand the reasoning in 2020. I’m not sure we’re in the same place in 2021 where we will need it, but in theory it applies to every team so from a competitive disadvantage angle it’s not really worth complaining about. In regards to wanting the games to be over quicker, I think the answer is yes. I’ve mentally allocated three hours for baseball game viewing. There is no reason for a Red Sox – Yankees game broadcast on Sunday night to finish 5-4 with the home team winning and a total elapsed time of 4hr 15min. I want to watch baseball. I don’t want to watch the grass grow while the hitter walks around outside the box or the pitcher steps off a couple times because they can’t get on the same page with the signals. I don’t need to see a replay of a runner being out at first based ten times with slow motion on all but the first. In fairness, I also hate the play in football where they call a timeout to ice the kicker.

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  7. When you think about it, it is rather amazing that we have technology that can count the number of revolutions on a pitch from the pitcher’s hand to home plate yet we lack technology that can determine a ball or a strike.

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    • I think you’ll see I have predicted that many times. Honestly, those two were as “on the cusp as they will ever be” so like Super Jack Mayfield, Astros gave them wings to fly.

      Anibal Sierra was an absolute bust for the $$ but started getting a little better (helped us win some games in Corpus, etc.), and that move means Astros committing to De Goti, Duarte, Enamnuel Valdez, Luis Santana and *Nova since he’s roster’d, plus Jeremy Pena who will be a NRI.

      Stephen Wrenn UGA boy, great kid solid solid athlete. He’s a playmaker yet lacks pop/contact skills. I’d say he’s every bit as good as Ferguson (Belmont), really better pedigree obviously but both are super smart players. What’s most interesting for me about Wrenn and I’ve said this — he was a 6th round guy, and Astros went on a run of getting 10th rounders. Adolph Cal Stevenson and my favorite of that bunch is Chandler Taylor. The reason is that Luhnow’s draft team picked Chandler Taylor from Alabama when Mets took Adolph, and well as a stats nut, I’ve been tracking them ever since, especially after Luhnow got fleeced for JD Davis.

      You see these are the bigger names, but Miguelangel Sierra is way worse. And Benedetti, way worse than Wrenn. Wilyer Abreu will go the way of Alejandro Garcia. What will become of Matthew Barefoot now that Zach Daniels was drafted, and so on.. There are others who will be dropping like flies we won’t read about. Names I’m looking at are Ralph Garza, Ronel Blanco, Erasmo Pinales. Of those Maybe Kent Emanuel deserves a last ditch NRI after a positive Winter League, and that’s about it on the elder pitching statesmen. I think Pinales was like a mentor for Paredes, Javier, Abreu and even Yohan Ramirez (I have pictures). You need those guys on the farm like Stassi, who would help EVERY catcher in the system. Astros rewarded him by signing McCann effectively blocking him, but Maximus has yet persisted.

      If we consider that subject, Astros catchers. I’ll end with this. A friend listed all the catchers in our system and I started thinking that we have too many to fill only 4 minor league rosters, but WHO are all the pitchers in the system going to throw to otherwise? Even our managers do OF shagging and catching duties because we have so many arms. Some of those catchers will drop off soon, and will try to catch on somewhere else, like Oscar Campos, or maybe Colten Shaver or even Lorenzo Quintana (Will jamie Ritchie ever be a Scott Heineman or Jake Rogers?) They may all fall a tad short of their goal in HOU.

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