This is a presumptive post today. We are presuming that the lockout will end and that the biggest concern isn’t losing a chunk of the season.
Looking beyond that, here are the Top Seven concerns for the Astros heading into 2022, and some may well be taken care of before the season begins.
- Replacing or Re-signing Carlos Correa. Carlos could still end up in Houston. This scribe is not betting any of his retirement money on that. Still, there are fewer landing places at this point, and Correa may decide to go for a higher annual average salary tied to fewer years and more opt-outs if he does not hear what he wants in the open market. So, let’s say he does leave. What do the Astros do?
- Pick up a cheaper short term free-agent shortstop like Andrelton Simmons
- Pick up a cheaper than Correa but still expensive free agent like Trevor Story
- Move Alex Bregman (who says he’s prepping for it) to SS and pick up a more affordable free agent 3B (warning there’s not much out there) or put Aledmys Diaz in that spot
- Rip the band-aid off and go young with Jeremy Pena and hope the lineup around him lifts him up
- Is JV still JV (or close). Another presumption is that the actual re-signing of Justin Verlander is just a formality. If it is, the Astros may have picked up a vital piece to their rotation or a luxury tax boat anchor. It was very comforting to have him throwing in the mid to high 90’s months ahead of Spring Training, but he is getting to be so old, 39 in February. Raise your hands if you are laughing at someone being old at 39. Still, having a Verlander in the mix with the returning pitchers is a positive thought.
- Lance McCullers’ health. Last season was McCuller’s healthiest season yet with the team in the regular season until it wasn’t in the playoffs. Do they need to give him a couple two-week vacations during the season to get him through to the end of the playoffs? Was he undone by throwing 172 innings (regular plus postseason) after missing all of 2019 and throwing only 70 innings in the plague shortened 2020? Or will he always be on the verge of an arm injury?
- Replacing Strommie. The assumption here is that the Astros will promote from within, that they helped facilitate this move so they would not lose a young coach blocked by an older one. But the Astros have not made that move, and they are allowed to make it during the lockout since it does not involve players. So, maybe they are still looking. We know that the younger coaches on staff have had more hands-on with the pitchers, but wasn’t Brent Strom directing them? Wasn’t he the one out at the mound giving the pitchers instant wisdom and feedback? This can be a critical move that could significantly affect this team going forward.
- Completing the bullpen (or not). Wrote about this recently ….
https://chipalatta.com/2021/12/02/does-hector-neris-complete-the-astros-bullpen/ Sometimes teams pick up bullpen help, and it just does not work out like planned. They get hurt (Pedro Baez). What they do in a small sample does not repeat (Andre Stubbs, Enoli Paredes). What they do for a non-contender does not translate to the pressure pot of a contender (Yimi Garcia). It would not be surprising to see the Astros add a lefty to the bullpen after losing Brooks Raley, but it might not happen until the trade deadline.
- Alex Bregman’s health. One of the reasons most folks are not seeing Bregman moving to shortstop is because he has appeared to play injured the last couple of seasons after being one of the two best players in the league during 2018 and 2019. After the end of the season, his wrist surgery confirmed at least some of the problem. If Carlos Correa does leave, one of the ways to replace him is by getting the full-blown Bregman for 140-150 games, rather than the wimpier version for 90.
- Who Will be Out in Centerfield (the most). Before getting injured, Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers did a solid job in centerfield after the trade of Myles Straw. It would be good if they both cut back on their strikeouts and boosted their walk rates. But they were quite productive last season as rookies. Jose Siri is the most talented and probably the least repeatable of the three of them. Of course, they might be the only place holding for someone else, like young Pedro Leon. But it will be fascinating to see how this position is covered in 2022.
- Centerfield fact that probably means nothing. In 11 at bats as a centerfielder, Kyle Tucker mashed with a .545 BA/ .667 OBP/ 2.030 OPS with 3 doubles, 2 homers and 5 RBIs
Now it is your turn – what do you think of this list of concerns? What other concerns do you have?