If / When: Steps the 2022 Astros need to take when the players get locked back in

The Astros, like every other team, is on hold from doing business with major leaguers at this time. They can sign players who are not on a 40 man roster to minor league contracts. They can make moves in their front office, management and coaching spots. They can even wave bye-bye as former or recent players head off to Asia to sign up for leagues that sound like boxing or martial arts titles.

But they can’t go about the real business of building and shuffling the major league roster.

If and when the flood gates are opened again, what steps will / should the Astros take to complete their team?

Note: This does not include naming a pitching coach. That does not need to wait for the end of the lockout. However, they should do it soon after if they have not named one by then.

  1. Figure out the shortstop situation – should they…
    1. Pursue the re-signing of Carlos Correa. If there is any indication, he will go for bigger dollars with shorter years?
    1. Pursue Trevor Story as a reasonably long term but less expensive (define less expensive) choice at shortstop?
    1. Pursue a short term, much cheaper solution like a great glove, meh bat Andrelton Simmons?
    1. Pursue a third baseman (Matt Chapman? Kris Bryant?) and move Alex Bregman to shortstop?
    1. Rip the band-aid off and give shortstop to prospect Jeremy Pena and see if he stays afloat (OK, mixed metaphors here)
  2. Pursue more bullpen help – should they…
    1. Pursue someone like Jake Diekman, a lefty (and they are short on lefties in the bullpen) in free agency?
    1. Pursue a free agent with no thought to handedness?
    1. Stay where they are on the bullpen and fill in from the minors if needed?
      1. Stay where they are and make moves during the season as per 2021?
  3. Kick the tires on a Jake Odorizzi trade – should they…
    1. Keep Jake and see how things work out in sorting out the rotation between Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Odorizzi?
    1. Pursue outfield help in exchange for Odorizzi. If you have questions about Chas McCormick, Jose Siri and the injured Jake Meyers?
    1. Pursue bullpen help (see item 2.) in exchange for Odorizzi plus prospect(s)?
  4. Pursue help at catcher – should they…
    1. Dangle Jason Castro and his decent hitting in 2021 (in a small sample) out there to maybe pick up a younger backup catcher?
    1. Trade a prospect or two to one of the teams that might not be trying too hard this year for a more solid hitting catcher than Martin Maldonado?
      1. Sit tight and wait on Korey Lee or Scott Manea to climb out of the minors?
  5. Pursue help in the outfield

Note: With Michael Brantley looking older and fighting injuries, questions about Yordan Alvarez in the outfield, injury to Jake Meyers, questions about potential regression with Chas McCormick – the outfield could be a consideration….should they…..

  • Trade one of their young buck outfielders and maybe a prospect and try and pick up a more established outfielder?
  • Pick through the free agent dregs of outfielders looking for some cheap help?
  • Sit still and hope Meyers comes back quickly and is even better than in 2021?

Your turn…..what do you want the Astros’ front office to pursue as soon as the lockout is unlocked?

40 comments on “If / When: Steps the 2022 Astros need to take when the players get locked back in

  1. 1. According to Fangraphs’ projections, the moment the Astros add Trevor Story to their team at SS, they become a better team than the one they had for the last two months of the regular season in 2021, because it frees Diaz up to become what he is best at, utility guy. The 2021 team was expected to have a record of 101-61, with their run differential.
    2. The moment they trade Odorizzi and acquire another good bullpen arm, they will be the WS favorite and have luxury tax room for the rest of the season.
    3. I believe the Astros are satisfied with their catchers for 2022. Castro and Martin Maldonado are in their final year, we hope, and the Astros are stacked with catchers in the upper minors, led by Korey Lee. I think Houston is covered at the catcher’s spot. Manea, Berryhill and Papierski are probably better catchers than Stubbbs was and Garrett’s brother could probably be added to that list, also. Yainer Diaz will probably hit better than any of them, but may never be a full-time catcher.
    4. I think the Astros are set in CF with Chas, Siri and Meyers for 2022.
    5. I think the Astros will look to the future in the outfield with the idea of Pedro Leon replacing Brantley in the outfield in 2023 and possibly having Meyers or McCormick moving to LF because of their gloves on their RH with Leon taking over in CF.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m in full agreement with 1, 2, 3.

      And as much as I tried to find an established corner outfield bat that would allow Tucker to go to center, we got a 3.5 WAR out of Chas and Jake over 440 at bats. Yeah, a good portion of that was DWAR, but those two excellent outfielders will cost about 1.2 million in 2022. There is nothing close to that on the market for the value we got. And I still have not considered Siri.

      Brantley is in decline against lefties. He should not be hitting second coming off a .575 OPS against them in 2021. Let him play everyday against righties and be an excellent pinch hitter on his days off. That will help keep all of our outfield options involved on a regular basis.

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      • And keep his legs fresher. He was a ground ball to 2nd base machine in the playoffs, he didn’t have his legs.

        You think that, I think that, but Dusty, who knows. I don’t think he sits Brantley at all. I expect a similar year – he is going to start very well when everything is fresh, but as he plays more LF he is going to wear down and not play that well in the second half and be invisible in the playoffs.

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    • I read the entire chat this afternoon and totally missed your name on that question. My head was still reeling from the buffalo kick.

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    • Dan, I’ve liked Diekman awhile you might say..

      This was a few months after I noticed the mismatch
      “A’s like the Diekman Alvarez match up a lot”
      commented on Game Thread 148. September 12th, 2019. 7:10 CDT, A’s vs Astros from TCB, Sep 12, 2019

      “One good thing for the Astros I’d think with the 3-batter minimum
      We don’t have to worry as much about breaking up Brantley and Yordan in the lineup.
      Teams were bringing in specialists (like Diekman) to matchup and could kill two birds when Hinch didn’t have them separated by two hitters.”

      February 21st, 2020

      “Jake Diekman on the blocks, Astros should put the super scoop on him in short order.
      Non tender Raley!”

      commented on Astros Crawfish Boil: November 4th, 2021 from The Crawfish Boxes, Nov 5, 2021

      I also sent JD a tweet telling him to come on over, we forgive him.

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      • GoStros –
        Yeah I always flinched when they brought in Diekman against us – though we did knock him around in the playoffs the last time we faced him.
        And it looks weird to see the comment about Hinch – it feels like a decade ago that he was the manager – has been an awful and an awful long 2 plus years since he led the team.

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  2. For funsies (because I don’t think this is what they will do, just what I would do) –

    I would shift Bregman. It’s not often you can replace a player the caliber of Correa with someone that potentially can be better offensively. Hole at 3B now? Open talks with Oakland about Chapman, if you can keep the cost down to something Urquidy and Pena, pull the trigger. If not sign M. Duffy, split the time at 3B with a conglomerate of Duffy and Diaz, give Pena a good look in ST – if he hits major leaguers in ST break camp with him on the roster and ease him into PT. Alot of times we get stuck in the either/or mentality when there can be some combination of ideas that get us through the year.

    The main reason I am staying away from Pena if I can is CF. It’s a hole right now, we can win with MeySirCormick, but even to hit .255-.260 they must have BABIPs over .340 and that is not sustainable. They are old for prospects. They only have moderate power. They will strike out at a minimum 25% of the time, likely 30%. I think its a lock that 2 out of 3 hit .225 this season. I like Chas the most but he has to find some consistency. They were fine batting 8th but with Correa being replaced in the lineup by either Diaz or Pena they are going to bump a spot. If Brantley or Alvarez miss time (don’t forget Yuli is 38) they could end up batting 6th a lot or seeing 2 of the 3 in the lineup together. We are going to see less production if that happens.

    You can never have too much BP help. Adding arms that are going to be in the 8-10 year AAV range has to be done with consideration of where we sit at tax wise but if there is truly no help in CF to be had – and that does appear to be the case – shoring up pitching is NEVER a bad idea.

    I don’t know what you get for Odorizzi. I think if you pursue a Chapman trade he almost has to be included to trade those salaries but Oakland is going to want more than we are willing to pay. I think they break camp with Jake and Javier both on the roster. Besides someone that keeps up better on the day to day can probably fill in this blank for me but isn’t there a decent chance McCullers wont be ready until mid May or early June?

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    • Right – if I’m laying out the plans Bregman is definitely sliding to SS for at least the first two months of the season. This is dependent upon him being able to move around though. I know we talked about the wrist surgery being the excuse for his poor performance, but he either chose not to run or couldn’t run much of last season. Given his performance in the 2020 season when he definitely had leg injuries I’m concerned that he won’t be able to handle the strain.

      Chas needs to put the ball in play more. I think Meyers improves unless he’s too focused on trying to hit for power. The upside is that both should save us runs on defense. Siri is a little too much like our old friend Villar in my opinion. He has the potential to save runs on defense in some games and will punish a AAAA pitcher, but I think the potential to give away runs on defense and inability to hit elite pitching makes him a 26th man at best.

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      • In a podcast a month ago, Bregman was very forthcoming about how the wrist problem affected his swing greatly. He even talked about the knot on his wrist we saw in a photo from almost a year ago.
        But Bregman was very up front about his leg problems and about his previous offseason workouts and how he had messed himself up. He said that the Astros medical staff figured out that he had focused too much on large muscle groups and ignored the small muscle groups and gave him a set of exercises to correct his legs before the lockout came. After a month’s time he said his legs were back to where they were in 2018 and 2019 and that he could run full out without worry about injuring himself for the first time since 2019.
        I would be surprised if they made Bregman their SS because that would mean a complete overhaul of the left side of the infield and I don’t think they want that.
        The signings of Verlander and Neris tell me that they are going to try to push 2022 as their year to go for that second ring.

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      • I would agree Pro – it appears Bregman is more willing to do that switch than Astros management appears to want to do it. Maybe part of that is not wanting to talk plans when Correa is still out there, but they have been mum about him shifting.

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  3. Just curious as to who is the heir apparent at 1st base? Does Yuli have another 2 years left in him? Taylor Jones? Yordan Alvarez? Any other possibiities?

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    • It’s an interesting question Z. In the old time world of baseball with Boog Powell and Harmon Killebrew – Yordan Alvarez would be the heir apparent. But I think with the new all shifts all the time world of baseball, you need someone more agile and quick around 1st base. I’m not sure that guy is here right now.

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    • I think the way salaries work today teams tend not to get to far ahead of themselves, especially contenders. I would assume we would all want Alvarez playing DH his whole career, heck I don’t even like watching him run out 1st to 3rds or doubles – just scares the heck out of me.

      In house, I think Perez has a shot, he will be at AAA this year, is only 21, and has time. He is playing 3B in the minors, but he isn’t exactly wow with the glove and assuming Bregman stays at 3B that is blocked for him.

      There was a day we all thought AJ Reed and Jon Singleton were heir apparents. Relying on people with no major league experience is a big roll of the dice for contending teams. Right now I am content to watch Yuli give us another fantastic season with presumably Diaz giving us some games over there. Another reason I think a 3/25 contract to Matt Duffy would be a good deal, can play both corners, 2B, and LF, and gives you depth if 2023 you want to take that first look at Perez. He also gives you a RH bat to spell Brantley against lefties (right now I assume Diaz will do that some as well, if Baker even decides to spell Brantley against lefties). Duffy also gives you protection if Diaz ends up starting 120 games at SS.

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    • I would pay attention to 1B at AAA/AA and see how those players develop this year.
      I’m sure the Astros would like to fill that 2023 1B job from within.

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    • Maybe we could trade a washed up reliever named Terry Sanderson to a team for a skinny 3B prospect named Buff Jagwell, who is blocked in that organization and then move him to 1B and on to the Hall of Fame….

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  4. I think our best available option at third base is Alex Bregman.
    I think our best available option at short (depending on terms) is Trevor Story or Carlos Correa.

    So that’s my preference for 2022 as the best way to fill out our infield.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think if/when the lockout ends, how the Astros and other teams will address their needs will depend on the luxury tax threshold. I don’t expect it to increase much and I think that will keep us from signing Correa or Story. Maybe we can trade for Isaiah Kiner-Falefa of the Rangers; otherwise I see us signing Andrelton Simmons and spending more on the bullpen.

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  6. As far as Brantley goes – I keep wondering how much playing through injuries affected him. Early on he was killing the ball, then got hit in the wrist and seemed to not have the pop after that, though he was hitting for high average. On August 1st he came out of a game with an ankle injury. He was slashing .331 BA/ .384 OBP/ .862 OPS. Along with the ankle problems – he also had knee problems down the stretch. In the last 38 games after the ankle injury he only slashed .264 BA/ .309 OBP/ .652 OPS.
    The question of course is whether he can stay healthy at his age. And as has been pointed out, though he never has hit that great against lefties over his career, last season was really bad. They really should be looking at platooning him a bit against lefties, perhaps with Chas or Jake when he returns. But do you want to have $16 MM tied up on him?

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    • That .363 BA and .418 OBP and .924 OPS against righties was great. Even if it costs 16 million, I’d rather get 110 games out of him with similar numbers and make sure he has plenty of rest and ideally remains healthy. We’ve got other guys better against lefties that can spell him in left.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Some Astros thoughts:
    – If your thinking about getting rid of Brantley, the first guy you’re gonna have to deal with is Dusty Baker. The Astros knew who they were signing when they gave Brantley a second two-year deal. I’m saying that Brantley is gonna be an Astros LFer for 2022 and coming off a year of .311 BA all the talk should be moot. Batting Average has always been Brantley’s game and he delivered.
    – Verlander’s signing with the Astros is a clear indication of a really comfortable relationship between the Verlander family and Houston and the Astros. There are a lot of places he could have gone. I think he and his wife like us.
    – Fangraph’s Steamer projection for Yuli Gurriel last season was .6 WAR and he delivered 3.4 WAR. He won the AL batting title and a Gold Glove for AL first baseman, so Steamer has now projected him to deliver 1.7 WAR in 2022. At age 38, Gurriel might be playing his final season. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t plan on bowing out with a whimper.
    – Kyle Tucker tore up AAA in 2018 and then came up to the majors and had negative 0.8 WAR in his first MLB try. He looked terrible. Now he’s a stud. Jake Meyers tore up AAA in 2021 and then had 1.6 WAR in just 49 games in his first try in the majors. How is it that some people don’t see him deserving of a job in CF for the Astros? How are we going to find out if he’s a stud if we write him off after a fine first season?

    Liked by 1 person

    • – I was just trying to jump start some conversation in questioning Brantley – I think he is good for the team with what he brings and in demonstrating to the younger guys how to hit and I am sure they will continue to roll him out there even when lefty-lefty stats say to sit him.
      – I had been hoping during his “hiatus” that Verlander would decide to come back here if only because he collected $66 MM for basically nothing. I was unsure how much he loved us after keeping his distance for the last two seasons, but if we could get 90% of what he was before the injury we would be doing well. Yes, I don’t think he returns if he and his family did not like how the city, fans, press treated them here.
      – Yuli is an interesting test case on wear and tear vs. longevity. He did not play nearly as many ball games coming out of Cuba as he would have if he came up through the major league systems. He looked pretty sprightly for his age last season and maybe he has more in his tank than a normal 38 year old.
      – Other than his strikeout to walk ratios I really liked what we saw out of Meyers last season and if he was healthy I would see him as the #3 OF in front of Chas (who also has K/BB problems to date). I want to see more of him obviously and hope he bounces back quickly in 2021.

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      • Dan, I remember when I was in grade school and had to write my name and date on papers every day. When the second semester came it was weeks before I remembered to change the date because of the New Year date change.
        Now, young man! It’s 2022!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I’ve done that a number of times the last few days OP along with doing it correctly. Like you say – need to move farther into 2022 to feel like its real I guess

        Liked by 1 person

    • 1. I didn’t see an “Heir Apparent” at any position at Sugar Land or Corpus last year. Multiple “Possible Heirs” on both teams. 2. We have two solid MLB outfielders for 2022 and 3 “Maybe’s.” That is better than last year and better than almost any MLB team. 3. Perez continues to be listed as a 3B while playing a few games a 1st. What I saw in him was “throwing errors” which would not effect him at 1st. 4. I am opposed to trading Urquidy or any other starting pitcher at this time. 5. I would like to see one more lefty in the pen, but not at the price of giving up a high prospect. 6. If the Astros are OK with Pena at Short to start the season, then I am too.

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    • Meyers does strike out a little bit more. He is older than Tucker and Tucker has already spent parts of 4 seasons in Houston. Tucker showed power from the gate, Meyer’s has developed and the sample of 2021 is half a season. I don’t want to sound dismissal of any of them, they are what we have. I hope Jake Meyers is a star in the making which is possible. Maybe something clicked in him in 2021. He is certainly the best hitter of the 3. I’m concerned with his strikeout rate, but it wasn’t terrible in the minors so maybe there is just an adjustment to be made. I’m in his corner – we have certainly gone through worst centerfielders in our history.

      We could be in a very good spot even if Meyers is able to only duplicate his 2018 and 2019 minor league numbers – hit moderately well, don’t have to hit 30 just have enough power to make a pitcher think about that 3-1 pitch, run well, play good D, if he and Pena just repeat it at the major league level we are golden.

      I just don’t want to many ifs. Ifs are scary. If Brantley doesn’t fade, if Verlander comes back and pitches like an ace, if McCullers can stay on the mound, if Bregman can regain form, if Pena and Meyers and Siri can hit ML pitching, not all the ifs are going to work. Somewhere we are going to have some ifs fail and we need the depth to handle that. If we had a chance to shore up an if by signing Marte that would have been optimal but we didn’t, so I’ll be rooting for Jake and Jeremy and Alex and Michael and Justin and Lance and hope all the ifs work.

      What ifs do you expect to succeed and what ifs worry you the most?

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  8. Regarding Trevor Story. In the 71 games he played away from Coors field last year, Story’s BA was a miserable.203, his OBP was .292, and his OPS was a very mediocre .717. On the year, including games at mile-high Coors, his slash lines against our division opponents were:
    – vs. Angels -BA .182/OBP .308
    – vs. Mariners – BA .250 / OBP .294
    – vs. Rangers – BA .273 / OBP .385 (hey, he’s from Irving, isn’t he?)
    Apparently the Rockies did not play the As last year.

    In short, offensively how would Story offer the 2022 Astros any significant improvement over Diaz or Pena?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome back Mr. Bill
      Well, I believe we are putting baseballs in reverse humidors to make them fly and we are going to raise Minute Maid on a mile high platform to mimic Colorado….
      I think they would be better off with a one year with Andrelton Simmons and bring Pena up when he is ready.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, as Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, and Diana Ross all used to say:
        ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ to make the ball fly around MMP the way it does at Coors field

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Mr. Bill! The good news is that I won’t have any say in the matter of who plays shortstop for the Astros in 2022. And even better, I’m sure the nerd cave has examined every at bat of Trevor Story’s six year career by now, over and over again. So no way James Click will be spending 25 million a year on a guy that might be a crapshoot. That would be a real blunder. As long as the season starts, I think we’ll again be a favorite to go deep into the post season.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Mark my words. The lockout is actually a false front provided by the owners and the union. It is not staged to make either side give in or panic.
    It is a ploy to move baseball toward providing more money to the wealthiest owners so that they can dominate baseball.
    You watch! When the dust settles, the large market teams with the wealthiest owners will have an even bigger advantage than they have now over smaller market teams.
    Less control over the years teams have over players, means that rich teams get an earlier shot at better younger players from poorer teams.
    Higher levels of luxury tax gives the big boys an even bigger advantage over less wealthy teams.
    Raising the levels means wealthy teams can spend more and the penalty thresholds are raised so that they don’t have penalties at the lower levels, now in effect. Less penalties on rich teams means less money to share with poorer teams.
    Raising the luxury tax to a much higher level means that wealthier teams can dominate free agency, dominate the playoffs and earn even more money for the wealthiest owners from their TV deals and playoff revenue.
    Raising the luxury tax level does nothing for the poorer clubs who will never approach these levels. It will only help the huge market teams to dominate everything and throw crumbs at small market teams.
    The Astros owner is only #20 in wealth and after doing everything to ruin the Astros since Jim Crane bought the team, they are still the biggest thorn in the side of major league baseball. They keep winning no matter what the wealthy owners want. So look for baseball’s new CBA to affect the Astros as much as possible.

    Liked by 2 people

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