The Astros are at the MLB Winter Meetings and arguably have the league’s least question marks. Here are some thoughts about where the team is right now.
- If the Astros did not make another move…. How good would they be? It is expected that they would still be a good team but might be a little vulnerable to injury. They would also be taking some chances in the catcher and outfield areas. And they would be assuming that the 6 starters they have now (without Justin Verlander) are adequate. If they went into the season as-is and had average injury luck – a 95-win season would seem possible.
- Another thought on the catching situation….if the Astros traded for Sean Murphy or signed Willson Contreras, the inside-the-box question is how would they fit around Martin Maldonado? How about they grab one of those two guys, trade Maldonado, and use Corey Lee (and maybe Yadier Diaz) as backup(s). It’s unclear what Maldy’s value is worth, but he has been a critical cog in multiple long runs into the playoffs. He might have some value out there, even with a bad batting average. Maybe they could pick up a prospect or two for him.
- One of the keys to the rotation going forward without Verlander is that no one tries to replace him. The only way this will work is for each pitcher to pitch within themselves and not worry that 18 wins and a Cy Young performance are gone with the wind. The biggest concern has to be injuries. And I’m looking at you, Lance McCullers. The plus side is that very few teams can lose a Justin Verlander and have five solid, experienced, significant league pitchers (Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia) available, plus a top-level prospect (Hunter Brown), who showed in a small sample that pitching down the stretch and in the playoffs was not too big for him. Will they go get a Jake Odorizzi type as insurance this season? It does not feel like it.
- The outfield situation is the most problematic. How much do they really want to use Yordan Alvarez in left field? Do they recognize that Chas McCormick was pretty good in centerfield? Do they think that Jake Meyers will be better a year farther away from his serious injury? Do they want to fill in with temporary pieces until Michael Brantley is ready? Who do they prefer, Andrew Benintendi, Cody Bellinger, and Brandon Nimmo? Do they think that any of their prospects – like Justin Dirden and Pedro Leon are anywhere close to ready? This spot probably should not be the amateur (Jim Crane) making the call.
- During the post season, I came to an epiphany about Dusty Baker and his forcing folks to get rest, no matter how they play. This team has played late into the off-season for six straight seasons, though not all the individuals have been involved the whole time. Still, they have played many more games than the average team and, notably, have had two to four weeks less off-season than the average team. Dusty knew his team was good enough to “survive” these days off, and maybe it is why his team seemed a bit fresher in the playoffs. Perhaps he is smarter than us…..
- Is the front office going to take the tack that they need to be aggressive in the next couple of years while they still have Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve under contract and while they still have their young pitching core under team control? You would think they would be interested in extending some of their folks like Framber Valdez and Kyle Tucker. But that is a two-way street, and the players and their agents must also be open to a deal.
Well, there are some things to chew on, my good readers. Enjoy and join in, please.