Astros: What happens after 2022?

This post is based on a comment from friend of the blog, Zanuda, who was speculating about how the Astros might address a couple of the spots coming off the books after the 2022 season.

The focus right now for folks is about the holes in the current roster heading into 2022. Well, frankly it is the question mark at shortstop with Carlos Correa’s free agency that has folks bouncing around. But there is really no new meat there beyond Carlos getting rid of his big name in show biz/ small name in sports William Morris agency representation and moving to the gold (Platinum? Unobtanium?) standard in Scott Boras.

But after that settles out, what holes do the Astros have to potentially fill after the 2022 season?

Yuli Gurriel – Yuli had arguably his best season in the bigs in 2021 winning the battle title, discovering how to take walks (maybe not in that order) and scooping up a Gold Glove at 1B and the Astros have him at a reasonable $8 MM price tag for 2022. When he hits free agency he will be a 38-year-old who turns 39 in June of 2023…..

Options – They could try to sign him to an extension early, but unlike last time they would be buying high. They will likely let him play in 2022 and then decide if there is acceptable regression due to age or if they think that would be too much of a risk. If not, internally Taylor Jones was bad in 2020, a bit better in 2021. Would they grab one of these guys who normally plays elsewhere (like they did with Yuli in the first place) such as Joe Perez, Yainier Diaz, Luke Berryhill or someone else? I still have a dream of Yordan Alvarez becoming the next Willie McCovey at 1B…..They often say you can get corner infielders and outfielders easily in free agency. They might try that.

Michael BrantleyBrantley has been a terrific hitter for his three seasons with the Astros. He has been an adequate left fielder, helped out by some good gloves in CF. He also seems to need more time at DH going forward, but the Astros have one of the better DHs around covering that spot.  In 2021, injuries caught up with him and cut his availability way down, and cutting back on how much he could run around the outfield. Is that Michael going forward? It feels like they will look elsewhere after 2022, if not sooner.

Options – It is a good guess that they will not re-sign Brantley for an outfield spot when he is 35 next off-season and turning 36 next May. Hmmm….I wonder if he’s ever played first base? Likely they will use 2022 to find out if they will fill this spot from within. Yes, a corner outfield spot can be filled fairly cheaply from the market, but likely the Astros will see if they can fill the 4 outfield spots, including the backup from Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, Jose Siri and Pedro Leon first.

Ryan PresslyHe has been one of the best set-up men for the Astros in a long time and then turned around and was a good closer for them, stabilizing a spot that had been populated by Ken Giles and Roberto Osuna before him. When the calendar flips another 12 times Pressly will have just turned 34 and will be coming off a season where he is being paid $10 MM.

Options – They could extend him again, before, during or after the season. But will they be willing to pay him the same or more going forward? It feels like they might let things ride and decide later on with this one. However, the biggest reason to extend him is that there is no obvious heir apparent inside the organization. This is not the same as saying there are not some fine arms in the system, but a team that is trying to be good year after year, seldom takes a shot with a rookie or green closer. Maybe Cristian Javier?  The Astros could just go out and spend a bunch for another established closer, but if they were going to do that, why not keep Pressly? Or they could trade for the next Pressly, someone who is not closing now and is flying under the radar.

Aledmys DiazIn his three seasons with the Astros, Diaz has been a solid hitting option – hitting for a decent average and some pop, while covering the infield positions and some left field. However….in 2019 he played 69 out of 162 games. 2020 he played 17 out of 60. 2021 he played 84 out of 162. His availability is the big drawback with him, plus the fact that he will again get some kind of raise in arbitration.

Options – It would not be surprising if Diaz would get traded heading into the trade deadline tied to a promotion of Jeremy Pena, if Pena is not the pick to take the place of Carlos Correa to start the season. Abraham Toro looked like he might be the next Swiss Army knife for the team, but left in the Kendall Graveman trade. Is there someone else hanging out there in the organization to fill this spot? Or is there someone they could pick up in free agency who would be a little more healthy in this role?

Jason CastroIn his second shift with the Astros after leaving in free agency after the 2016 season, Castro did a decent job (probably more decent with the bat than behind the plate) as the second catcher. Late in the season and during the playoffs he became Mr. Clutch as he chimed in with many a late-inning hit for the team.

Options – Will Castro make it to the trade deadline? Heck, will he make it to the start of the season without getting traded? The best-case scenario would have Korey Lee work his way to the majors by continuing to play well and share time with Martin Maldonado (signed through 2023), eventually taking over the top spot in the catching hierarchy. If not, the Astros have continuously cycled in light hitting veterans into the two catching spots ever since Brian McCann left and may do it again.

Justin VerlanderThis one is speculative. JV, who has only pitched 6 innings the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, signed a two-year contract for $50 MM. But….. he can opt-out of the second season. The only reason he would opt out of that second year would be because he had returned to the excellence of his Pre-TJ self and thought he could get more moola. That would be good for the 2022 Astros, not so good for the 2023 Astros.

Options – This is pretty straightforward. If you think he will be great going forward and you want to invest another chunk of money in a multi-season contract at an even more advanced age, go ahead and pray that 2020-2021 does not re-occur. Your other choice is to let him walk and use that $25 MM to bring in another pitcher(s) or to extend one or more of those good young guns like Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker or Cristian Javier (this might be a little early for some of them).

Pedro BaezBaez had been a very solid reliever for a number of seasons before he came to Houston. But Covid and injuries limited him to 4.1 innings in 2021. After the 2022 season, the Astros will have to make a decision on him based mostly on his 2022 results. They have a team option to pick him up for $7.5 MM for 2023 or they could buy him out for $2 MM (or more) and send him on his way. If he reaches certain thresholds in 2022, that buyout might rise.

Options – Unless he becomes Pressly 2.0 during the coming season, they will probably not pick up the $7.5 MM. They have lots of young arms coming and there are always a lot of free agent relievers available and relievers for trade.

Jake OdorizziOdorizzi got a late start to the 2021 season and never really hit his stride. He also did not win over the fans. He was not terrible, but he was not reliable. His contract situation is that he has a player option for $6.5 MM for 2023 (he can choose to stay here and get the money whether the team wants him or not). Or the Astros can buy him out for half that amount or if he hits certain goals he could make quite a bit more in a buyout. Will he still be here for that moment and what will happen?

Options – Again, it feels like they will somehow get out from under that extra year through a deadline trade, unless he is kicking butt this season. Based on what we saw last season that is hard to picture. Should he be here blocking a Peter Solomon, a Hunter Brown, a Shawn Dubin or even a Forrest Whitley.

Well, there you have it. The roster going forward will be greatly affected by the decisions after the 2022 season.

45 comments on “Astros: What happens after 2022?

  1. I don’t expect Yuli to repeat his 2021 season again. But let’s see how he holds up in 2022. In 2023, he might be a solid platoon guy at first and an excellent pinch hitter. Money does not seem to be a huge issue with him. And have we forgotten about his countryman, Norel Gonzalez? Let’s see what he does for the Space Cowboys this year.

    Brantley has been a wonderful Astro. But his lifetime OPS against lefties is .692 and it was .575 in 2021. He’s limited in leftfield and on the bases. Dusty will likely keep trotting him out there for the time being, but I don’t see him here in 2023. It’s time for the Astros to get younger if we want to keep this streak of relevance intact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Pressly remains our man in 2023 unless he gets hurt, has a bad year in 2022, someone else emerges, or he wants too much money for multiple years in 2023! Seems we knew what to do about Will Harris. I trust the experts.

    Chances are 2022 is the last year we’ll have Diaz with the Astros. Too many other guys growing in a ultilty role within the organization. And at 600K a year.

    If Castro is healthy and getting a chance to hit righthanded pitching, I think he’s here through 2022, but done at that point. But again, Dusty might push Maldy out there 130 times during the regular season.

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  3. I’ve never been so unconcerned about a 41 year old guy coming off TJ surgery. I’m much more concerned about McCullers. Verlander will be a good problem to have in 2023 along with our batch of young starters. Geez, if he and Lance are healthy in 2023, then we’ll have a heck of a rotation.

    I’d love to see Baez contribute in 2022 but I have no expectations. He won’t be around in 2023. We’ll have in house options.

    Jake? Heck, if he pitches well, he’s valuable. But I’m not sure he wants to be here. Ther Astros will not keep a malcontent around. I think he goes before the 2022 season starts, assuming it starts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good takes. I don’t think Jake has pitched himself into being a tradeable asset without us eating some salary. Most teams probably feel they can get 4-5 innings of 3 run ball from some 22 year old playing on a minimum salary to take on what I think is 14.5 million in the next two years.

      Funny part is what do you do if you are Click and Jake opens in the rotation (possible until we hear the state of McCullers post surgery) and he has 3 of 5 quality starts, maybe even throwing in a 7 inning 1 run job once or twice? Now he has made himself both marketable to someone like either New York team or Boston that has minds of contention but short on pitching, and made himself into an asset with us! Of course, I think Jakes best years are behind him and I expect more 4-5 inning, 4 run farkles than quality starts.

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  4. All hot takes, its hard to know whats happening internally but based on what I’ve seen performance wise –

    Yuli – Agree with Dave, he doesn’t repeat his performance, but who does repeat batting titles? As long as he creates another spot in the order that is high leverage to stress a pitcher, the better we are for it. I think he can do that this year, and next. Never know when the wheels fall off, but if he hits .275 with 15 HR next year I would be fine with another 10-15M for another season and see what happens.

    Brantley – When a lefty hitter has a dramatic falloff against lefties, usually the falloff against righties is coming behind it. The statistics suggest he will hit .290ish this year overall, my eyes tell me that he was just worn out last year and didn’t have his legs under him in the playoffs. Certainly wish he could spend 100 games at DH this year, I really do think it would extend his career 2-3 years if he can have his legs under him especially in high leverage at bats. If he spends 120 games in LF and playing nearly everyday he will have a sub par second half and that will probably spell the end unless he takes a significant pay cut.

    Pressley – Another Luhnow gem. He went and gave Pressley that contract extension when he wasn’t the closer, but I think Luhnow knew he was going that direction the whole time. He ended up having a very capable closer for a few years at 8th inning guy money. I suspect this is Pressleys last year in Houston given his age and what his salary demand will be as an above average closer.

    Diaz – I would love for the Astros to keep him. Capable bat not afraid of high leverage moments. Can play 5 positions capably. His injury history is concerning. His durability is probably the reason the Astros front office has made sure people know who Jeremy Pena is. I would not be mad if the Astros gave Diaz 3/30 to remain, I wouldn’t be mad if they didn’t.

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  5. Castro – I think he is here all year. I like Lee. There is a lot to like. A catcher that puts 70 points plus between his BA and OBP, has a little power, an above average CS rate, a lot to like. I think he gets a full season at AAA unless he shows up and hits 10-15 HR in the first half and forces the hand. Even then there are plenty of questions to ask – is Lee better off catching 4-5 times a week in Sugar Land or once a week in Houston? If Maldy goes down for a 3 week stretch does Verlander and McCullers want to throw to a rookie they don’t know or Castro? If the Astros are in first place in July I don’t think we see Lee until a September cup of coffee. To be honest I would rather keep Lee off the 40 man this year and let him play everyday, if/when we need that 3rd catcher I would fit Manea into that, he is the older more seasoned player who probably has no future with the franchise but can pitch in 10-15 games this year if necessary.

    JV – Agree with Dave again. Not many players can be at his age coming off his 2 years of a layoff and still make me feel great about him being here. He is a generational workhorse. He may not be the best team first guy or the friendliest cat in the clubhouse, a fairly self absorbed guy but we benefit from the fact that he is very adverse to change. This is a guy that is so much into routine and lack of change that he didn’t want to leave his bottom feeding franchise that had been bad for a quite some time to go to a contender, to me because he didn’t want to move, he doesn’t like change, he likes to stay in his saddle and is more worried about his 32 starts than he is the teams place in the standings. Fine by me, if his 32 starts are what I expect them to be. What happens after he wins 17-20 game this year and opts out, I don’t know, but we won’t be out of that discussion because he hates change.

    I haven’t given 2 thoughts to Baez. I expect the Astros to buy that out.

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  6. I will start where the post starts, namely, Yuli Gurriel/1B.
    In 2023, Yuli will turn 39 and, certainly, what he does in 2022 will determine what he and the team does about the IB position in 2023.
    Current replacement players for him for 2023 might include:
    Taylor Jones- I don’t think the Astros feel he is the guy.
    Scott Schreiber-would need to really shine in 2022.
    Norel Gonzalez- The LH bat the Astros would love to put in their lineup, if he bounces back to the hitter he showed in the past.
    Shay Whitcomb- Could play 1B with his build and his bat, but might not be ready by 2023.
    It would be nice to find a prospect ready to step in at 1B if Yuli is ready to retire. I really like the idea of Gurriel staying with the Astros as a coach to help all the young Cuban prospects develop. Replacing him with a rookie salary really gives the Astros more financial flexibility from 2023 and beyond.
    Baseball Reference has credited Gurriel with 13.8 WAR in his career for his $54 million in salary. Fangraphs thinks the 2021 GG winner has never been able to play 1B

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Off subject – one of my old favorites, Meatloaf died at 74 y.o.
    Probably not everyone’s favorite, but I loved the theatrics he brought to Jim Steinman’s very unusual songwriting.
    In something that reminds me of how teams sometimes look at prospects, he and Steinman tried to get his debut record made, Bat Out of Hell, for years.
    Music mogul Clive Davis dismissed them by saying about Steinman’s writing

    “Do you know how to write a song? Do you know anything about writing? If you’re going to write for records, it goes like this: A, B, C, B, C, C. I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re doing A, D, F, G, B, D, C. You don’t know how to write a song…. Have you ever listened to pop music? Have you ever heard any rock-and-roll music…. You should go downstairs when you leave here…and buy some rock-and-roll records.”

    Finally, the brilliant Todd Rundgren heard their music and loved it – feeling it was a bit of a send-up of the “Born to Run” album from Bruce Springsteen. He produced it with two Springsteen band members, Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan playing on it and another band member Little Stevie Van Zandt helping to set up a record deal for them.

    Forty three million records sold later and Clive Davis and others might have slightly regretted the rejection.

    My wife and I loved the humor in one of his songs off that album, Paradise by the Dashboard Light – where his girlfriend gets him to tell her he will love her til the end of time (in exchange for we know what). So then he tells her that and then the next line is “Now I’m praying for the end of time…..”

    Just fun stuff – will miss you Meat and miss the great Jim Steinman who passed recently, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The sad part is that we are seeing the greatest generation of musicians slowly die away. There will never be a better time for music during the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. There are some good bands and individuals in the 90’s but I just haven’t seen or heard much that I’m interested since 2000. Now I know how my Dad felt listening to me play my Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Allman Brothers, albums. I actually have some of his 78 rpm records left. Wish I had them all but they went the way of the dinosaur. Never was a big Meat Loaf fan but he sure had one hell of a voice. I can appreciate that. You mentioned Todd Rundgren, Stevie Van Zandt and while not a super fan I loved listening to their music too.
      Isn’t it strange that music seems to transition all the bad stuff going on in the world today. One final note if you have time. Go to You tube and listen to “Leonid and Friends” do Steely Dan’s My Old School and Chicago’s Dialogue parts I and II. They are Russian but you’d never know it. Also listen to the “Lexington Lab Band”. They have a catalogue of over a hundred songs that I’m sure anybody would enjoy.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dan, I was on the road yesterday and they did a tribute on the XM station playing into a Meatloaf song, saying what an outpouring of people have paid tribute in the wake of his passing.

      Listening to that song, the way he sang,…it was a real punch in the gut to even listen. Something very unique about his music; I’ll have to read more, and to what you’re eluding.

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  8. Two out of three may not be bad, but is .666 really something we are aiming at?

    Are there really bats in … Oakland?

    If there is something a person would not do for love, in fairness shouldn’t we be told what that ‘I won’t do that’ somthing is?

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  9. And looking above
    – Daveb (uncleknuckle) – I’m lined up well in my head with your thoughts. For Verlander I am probably more worried about how he adjusts to the not as sticky world – though supposedly stickier baseballs are coming
    – Steven – thanks for a lot of good thoughts and content! On Brantley, what I am hoping is that rather than him getting worn out late in the season, that he was trying to play through those leg problems and that after an off-season (and it looks like the off-season may extend through Spring Training a bit) that he comes back with healed legs and a better base for his swing. (Note- he also suffered that hit by pitch early in the year that took him out for a few days and seemed to sap his power).
    – OP – by the way sorry for your loss of the calf that you passed along – tough one. Really liked your takes on Yuli. It would be great to keep him around to help with the younger Cuban players who are becoming a big part of the Astros as we go along
    – AC – don’t despair about 2023 yet. I have faith that Click is not just trying to win this year and I think Crane is the same way
    – Zanuda – thanks for the tips on Russian rock music – cool. On another note, I found Todd Rundgren to be a semi-anonymous hero of rock. He had a few hits in the early 70’s (Hello It’s Me, I Saw the Light, We’ve Got to Get You a Woman) and then really did not have too much after that – doing a lot more for other artists. One of my all time favorite under the radar songs was “Love is the Answer” by England Dan and John Ford Coley, but Rundgren wrote that and put out a terrific version of it himself. He produced classic albums – like Bat out of Hell for Meatloaf, Straight Up for Badfinger (Day after Day, Baby Blue) and We’re an American Band for Grand Funk Railroad. One of my favorite episode’s of Daryl’s House (hosted by Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates) is where they leave Daryl’s House and go to Hawaii to do music with Rundgren in a beautiful setting of his estate.
    – Mr. Bill – “But I won’t do that” is one of those rock and roll mysteries, like who is Carly Simon calling So Vain or who Alanis Morissette is singing to in You Oughta Know

    Liked by 1 person

    • I figure that you probably know but England Dan was Jim Seals’ (Seals and Crofts) brother who died in 2009. You picked my favorite Todd Rundgren songs. I was also aware the he did a lot of production work for many of those aforementioned musicians. If you look at a lot of the albums during that period it’s always interesting to see who the producer was. As for the “I won’t do that” from Meatloaf, don’t know what/who he was talking about but we did get to find out about what Carly and Alanis were singing about.

      Sometimes it’s good to talk about some of the other things that make us feel warm and fuzzy besides Astros baseball. Yet, I hope the lockout ends soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I did know they were brothers. They grew up here in Texas – in the oilfield as I understand. I think Dash Crofts lives in the Hill Country. I googled about them and apparently Jim Seals nephew and Dash Crofts daughter did a concert in Borger, TX (panhandle area) as Seals and Crofts 2. Crazy huh?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Although I have some thoughts about the guys we are discussing, I’m not going to weigh in until this stupid lock out is over….because we might have new guys to talk about. I hope Click can work some magic and we can have a new short stop with the last name Story but I’m not hopeful since the Yankees look like he’s on their radar. And…good luck Correa finding some club to give you and Boris stupid money. It appears Mother Nature is piling on for this old lady, I now have a right arm and shoulder full of Shingles. No offense Daveb but I’m calling UNCLE🤬

      Liked by 1 person

    • They are fine, so far. I saw them together out in the pasture with the others yesterday. He is a good looking, pure bred red Shorthorn bull with a few white markings. Waiting for a name from our daughter in law.

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  10. Michael Brantley.
    The Astros of this day have shown to be in favor of letting older players who are still performing well to play out their contracts. They did it with Josh Redding and McCann and they appear to be doing it with Castro.
    The fact that they are providing this stability to their free agent signings is a plus when courting current free agents.
    I believe the Astros will start Brantley at least 100 games in LF and start him a bunch of games at DH in 2022.
    Likely, by 2023, there will be a DH in all of MLB and Brantley will be in demand to fill that spot for a team that really wants him there and would be willing to pay him a good salary to DH for them.
    As someone has already said in this discussion, the Astros will have Tucker, McCormick, Meyers, Siri and Leon in their stable to make up an outfield for 2023, if they choose to keep all the them. Any combination of those five would give them the best defensive outfield in the AL and the Astros won’t be limited to just those 5 guys if they choose to go after someone else when Brantley moves on.

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  11. By the way, one of the guys I left out of the future 1B position was Joe Perez. He might not be a third baseman of the future, but the bat is key to converting a guy from 3B to 1B, and he just might have the stuff to be a good first baseman.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Of all the situations Dan talks about, I find Ryan Pressley’s the most interesting.
    Since the day after the WS, Fangraphs has listed on their home page, for everyone to see, the MLB leaders in WAR for each portion of baseball, including relievers. So, every day you can go to their Home Page and see Ryan Pressley as the third best reliever in baseball, per Fangraphs WAR.
    Pressley’s WAR, as a reliever, trails only Liam Hendricks and Josh Hader.
    I point this out because I would like everyone to realize what we are talking about when we talk about Pressly’s 2023.
    In baseball’s eyes, 2023 will be Pressly’s age 34 year. 2022 is his last year under contract. What happens in 2022 will determine what he does for 2023, Unless he gets hurt, I see the Astros trying to extend him for similar money. I think they will try to do a one year, plus an option year. But they might have to make a two year commitment to seal the deal.
    If the league does add a little tackiness to it’s baseball, this will help Pressly, because I think his slider and curve have less spin than they used to.
    I believe the Astros want Pressly to continue to anchor the bullpen, but also want to have three or four guys out there who are capable of saving a game, if they need to rest Pressly. The Astros need more relievers who can throw strikes and fewer balls. I believe they need to retain Pressly and add to that bullpen and unload relievers who can’t throw strikes consistently.
    I also look for a little different dugout philosophy as far as pitching is concerned with the changing of the guard of pitching coaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Aledmys Diaz.
    In 2023 he will be 32 and a free agent. I think the Astros will keep him all year in 2022 and then let him head to free agency.
    Same with Castro.

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  14. In the year, Twenty-thousand-twenty-three;
    Will JV still be JV?
    And if he’s takin’ signs from Cory Lee … will we mind?

    In the year twenty-thousand-twenty-four;
    Are we gonna need a corner – or does Bregs have more!
    Everything CC did at short, will Pena still do … without back support?

    In the year, twenty-thousand-twenty-five;
    will Dusty B. still be alive; will Yuli G. still hit line drives,
    and re-sign?

    In the year, twenty-thousand-twenty-six,
    will Yordan A. still swing that stick? Will the draft go well for Mr. Click?
    Who’ll he find?

    And when the years do Jose’ in . . . and Framber’s arm flops in the wind;
    and McCullers’ knuckle-curve loses spin, will Javier get to start again?
    And will us chipalatta fans … all be pee-ing in bedpans?
    Will we know ERA from WHIP? And still enjoy this fellowship? [Sigh!]

    In the year, twenty-thousand-twenty-two;
    here we sit, locked out, what’s new?
    The future is such a mystery; is it all tomfoolery?

    Liked by 1 person

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