Astros: Taking in the long view

Today we step back and take the long view of the roster construction for the Astros. The list below does not include every Astro on the 2023 roster, but basically the most important ones.

Position 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029
1B Jose Abreu Abreu Abreu FA      
2B Jose Altuve Altuve FA        
SS Jeremy  Pena Pena Pena Pena Pena FA  
3B Alex Bregman Bregman FA        
C Martin Maldonado FA          
DH/LF Yordan Alvarez Alvarez Alvarez Alvarez Alvarez Alvarez FA
RF Kyle Tucker Tucker Tucker FA      
CF Chas McCormick Chas Chas Chas FA    
SP Framber Valdez Valdez Valdez FA      
SP Cristian Javier Javier Javier FA      
SP Lance McCullers McCullers McCullers FA      
SP Luis Garcia Garcia Garcia Garcia FA    
SP Jose Urquidy Urquidy Urquidy FA      
SP Hunter Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown FA
RP Ryan Pressly Pressly Option        
RP Bryan Abreu Abreu Abreu Abreu FA    
RP Rafael Montero Montero Montero Montero FA    
RP Ryne Stanek FA          
RP Hector Neris Option          

Note 1) Arbitration-eligible seasons are shown in bold italics

Note 2) Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly have options that may or may not be exercised for 2024 and 2025 respectively. Pressly is a mutual option where both sides have to agree. Neris’s is a team option that can swing to a player option if a certain number of games played is triggered.

Thoughts…..

  • The Astros have a sure two-year window here, facing only the potential losses of Maldonado, Stanek, and Neris after 2023 before having to face losing Altuve and Bregman after 2024. This is a definite make hay while you can period for a team that just won the World Series.
  • From a pitching standpoint, the 2025 season could easily be part of the window. The team will definitely have more money to play with if both Altuve and Bregman walk after 2024 (Almost $60 MM in pay between them). However, the now cheap pitching will not be so cheap then after two or three years of arbitration or after signing extensions.
  • Speaking of extensions – looking at this chart – they should be trying to extend Cristian Javier along with Framber and Kyle.
  • The 2026 season will be an interesting one. Will they have extended enough players to bridge over to a new team? Will they have more help from the minors? Will they have added a few more pieces by free agency or trade? It will be a critical year to see how long they can sustain success here.
  • By the time you get out to that 2027-2029 time period it is a new team. Yes, they may still have Yordan and Hunter Brown and partially Pena, but again they may not. Can they find a way to sustain success without going all 2011-2013 on our butts? That will be the big challenge for whoever is the Astros’ GM.
  • But always remember that teams turnover. Go back just a few seasons…..

2019 Astros

1B – Yuli Gurriel – likely gone

2B – Jose Altuve

SS – Carlos Correa – gone

3B – Alex Bregman

C – Robinson Chirinos – gone

OF – George Springer – gone

OF – Michael Brantley – may be back

OF – Josh Reddick – gone

OF – Jake Marisnick – gone

DH – Yordan Alvarez

UT – Aledmys Diaz – gone

SP – Justin Verlander – gone

SP – Gerrit Cole – gone

SP – Wade Miley – gone

SP – Brad Peacock – gone

SP – Zack Greinke – gone

SP – Collin McHugh – gone

SP – Framber Valdez

RP – Roberto Osuna – gone

RP – Chris Devenski – gone

RP – Hector Rondon – gone

RP – Ryan Pressly

RP – Will Harris -gone

RP – Josh James – gone

To be perfectly candid – a few of the players on the 2023 roster did make appearances in 2019, including Kyle Tucker, Martin Maldonado, Bryan Abreu, and Jose Urquidy. But the point is that even with all of the Astros recent success, they have been able to sustain that despite a complete apple turnover of the roster.

Now – how about your thoughts on the subject.

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43 comments on “Astros: Taking in the long view

    • Thank you OP – it actually took me longer to come up with the concept and layout than to do it.
      This one was fun because I thought it was interesting and unique.

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  1. The first guy I look at is Altuve. It’s pretty clear he wants to stay. But when the Andrew Benintendi’s of this world get handed 75 million dollars for 5 years, I’m not sure if Jose will be able to take such a pittance.

    After having reviewed Chas Mccormick’s stats so many times over the past couple of years, I know his lifetime OPS+ is 109. So is Benintendi’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. More and more, I see the Astros signing Brantley and pretty much going with what they’ve got, at least until the deadline in July. But can we still find a Dubon replacement that can also come off the bench in a pinch hit situation? And what about a lefty out of the pen for Dusty? Andrew Chafin? I like Diaz, at least for his bat. I’m intrigued by Justin Dirden. Looking forward to the coming months.

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  3. Some of my thoughts:
    * Dubon is not one of my favorites. But! If Pena gets injured, he has the ability to play a good SS. Or 2B or CF. I think that is why he is still around.
    * No matter what, the Astros are going to keep striving to have position players with low K rates and they will weed out players who don’t.
    * I think they will try to extend Bregman
    * I think they will try to avoid going over the Luxury tax line in 2023, but not necessarily in 2024.
    * I keep reminding myself that excellent scouting and development can produce players who will help you win. Jeremy Pena is a great example of what can happen when you do a great job in R and D. I firmly believe the Astros have a number of players already in their system who will turn out to be big contributors in the long term.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. On Sports Map Hou the other day they were talking about the amounts that players were getting paid and they had an interesting take on Tucker. Although they didn’t indicate the $ they saw no reason why he shouldn’t be offered a 10 year contract. He’s still young and injury free. The long and short of it is that the Astros want to continue to be viable after 2024 they’re going to have to change their philosophy or get left behind. You’d think baseball players are becoming like G. Gordon Gecko of “Wall Street” fame. “Greed for lack of a better name is good”.

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    • If I had to sign an Astro to a 10 year contract, Tucker would be the guy. But at this point, we don’t know the Astros will no longer be relevant if they don’t follow the trend of decade plus contracts.

      Springer, Correa and Cole might be solid reminders as to why the Astros won’t get left behind.

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    • I don’t think there is a player in baseball I’d willingly sign to a 10 year contract. The guy I used to compare to Tucker was Shawn Green…although I suggested it would be unlikely for Tucker to reach his level of achievement. Green played parts of 15 seasons in MLB beginning at age 20 and ending at age 34. His career high OPS was .972 in 1999 at age 26. He played well the next 6 years with two OPS in the 900s and 4 more in the 800s. Then, for his final two seasons he was basically Chas McCormick. Green could have kept playing, but chose to retire on his terms at age 35. He was fading, though, and no longer an impact player. If we consider Tucker’s last three seasons, he’s posted OPS of .837, .917, and .808. He will be 26 a month from today. These next three years should be his prime and we already control two of those. If we really want to make him an Astros for life than go ahead and write the check, but if we’re approaching it from a cold-blooded-as-Luhnow standpoint you probably want to keep your options open. If 2024 isn’t going well you can move him in the summer for capital. If it’s going well you can try to extend him or bring him back as a FA.

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  5. One important point that I think should be made here because of the years you account for in your post, Dan.
    The Competitive Balance Tax thresholds are $233m for 2023, $237m
    for ’24, $241m for ’25 and $244m for ’26.
    The Astros will have some wiggle room to fit in under these thresholds if some of their prospects contribute to the major league team in these coming seasons.
    I will go out on a dangerous limb and point out some of the guys already in the system who could be a factor in these coming years. I won’t mention players who are real young or who I don’t see potentially able to contribute a lot:
    No particular order!
    Hunter Brown Drew Gilbert
    Jacob Melton Collin Barber
    Korey Lee Forrest Whitley
    Justin Dirden Spencer Arrighetti
    Misael Tamarez Shawn Dubin
    Colton Gordon Michael Knorr
    Joey Loperfido Will Wagner
    Scott Schreiber Pedro Leon?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, the way I figure it, if the Astros thought he was hopeless he would be gone already. As it is, he could be gone tomorrow. But until the man in charge says “adios” they may still be able to use him.
        It’s my thinking that he would be best suited to work on his best three pitches and command them and then become a good pitcher out of the pen.
        They may see it differently and they are the guys who are smart about baseball.

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    • But to your basic point – the way to sustainability is adding a couple guys internally every year.
      Instead of bringing someone in for 4 yrs – $40 MM – you can easily get 4 yrs for less than $10 MM from a newbie

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    • Why not just sign Brantley and get it over with? We know his legs are fresh! And if for some reason they won’t sign him, then give Conforto the 1 year deal he seems to want. Regardless, we still have have Jake and Frenchy hanging around too.

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    • He’s a Bora$ client. We have a few on the roster and Boras has a good relationship with Crane. Conforto is also a Boras client. There are a lot of teams still disappointed to have lost out on Trea Turner, Bogaerts, Judge, and some of the other guys who signed laughable deals. Houston has more options than anyone else in the league right now. They don’t need someone for LF and will enter the season as the likely betting favorites to win their division, the AL, and probably the WS. Boras can use this as leverage. Profar is probably worth about $8M per year on a 2-3 year deal. Instead, Boras will use the other signings and the fear that the Astros will have him instead of Jake Meyers in their lineup to squeeze a little more money out of someone else…probably a 3 year deal for $34M total.

      Having said all that, he’s not a bad player as portrayed in the comments section of that linked site. He’s just not the star the Rangers thought he would be. He’s going to be 30 when the season starts and I suspect would increase his numbers just by leaving SD. Take that with a grain of salt as he was better at home than on the road last year, but it was the opposite in smaller sample in 2021. I just don’t see the money required to sign him being worth it for the Astros, but they will have more information on Brantley than we do as well as opinions of what they have in the farm system.

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  6. Uncle Mike is back with the Astros. 1 year/$11 million+ incentives.
    He gets his ring while playing for his team.
    Brantley and Alvarez splitting time between DH and LF.
    OK, Boss, who do you have in mind for the next move.

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  7. We have Lance for 2026, too.
    Regarding Pressly, what is the purpose of a mutual contract? If both sides agree to a number, you have a deal, so doesn’t that situation always exist?

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    • Pressly’s option is not a mutual option, but a vesting option. For instance, if he makes a certain number of appearances in a designated year or in his final year, that option year would automatically vest.

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      • I pulled it off baseball reference and it said the following gobbledy gook -“$14 MM Mutual Option – $2MM buyout option guaranteed with 50 game played in each 2023 and 2024”
        Not sure what that means re-reading it.

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  8. I’m guessing that it means the team’s option vests if he pitches 50 games in both seasons, but he can still opt out. If the team’s option vests, they still have a $2m buyout to get out the deal.

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  9. So … assuming Uncle Mike really is healthy enough to play opening day, where does his bat fit in the line-up? Would Dusty dare put him back in the 2-spot and go back-to-back-to-back with left-handed hitters [Brantley at 2, Alvarez at 3, Tucker at 4]? Would he move Alex Bregman [who historically starts like ice cold molasses before finishing with a flurry] up to 3rd? Would he leave Jeremy Pena at the 2-spot and move Uncle Mike down to 6 or 7?

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    • With so many Astros playing in the WBC, which will totally mess up spring training continuity, I don’t expect we will know the answer to that until close to opening day.
      With the 40-man at 38, we still don’t know who will be here. I still suspect the Astros aren’t done yet.

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      • The WBC is clearly a good tool for recruitment of MLB talent for forward-looking teams like the ‘Stros, and it is certainly a good vehicle for raising merchandise-sales and advertising revenue, but it sure does complicate things for managers and fans.

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  10. Obviously, the threat of a ‘Luxury Tax’ is not deterring the big market teams in the least. How about along with the ‘Luxury Tax’ MLB announce that any team that exceeds the limit where the luxury tax kicks in forfeits one or more of the following:
    [a] two games against each division foe in the season in question;
    [b] home field advantage in any playoff or WS game;
    [c] their first and second draft picks the following year;
    [d] their team’s share of any WS revenues they might earn that year (with that forfeited share being divided equally among their division opponents).

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    • The 2020-2022 World Series just pulled in the lowest three ratings of any World Series over the last 23 years. 2020 featured Tampa Bay and the least likeable team that doesn’t play in NYC. The 2021 and 2022 featured the Astros against NL East squads. I suspect the MLB home office is desperate to get a matchup that doesn’t have the Astros or Rays and ideally features the Yankees. If Tatis Jr. hadn’t been exposed as a cheater they probably would welcome the Padres, but I suspect a lot of fans have turned on them. As such, I fully expect the 2023 winter meetings will start off with a new rule being ratified where MLB can choose 5 teams that don’t play in the state of Texas or Florida who will be exempt from all luxary tax rules each season. The second rule will be that Shohei Ohtani will get four strikes each at bat so his numbers would be MVP worthy once again. Finally, all Aaron Judge at bats will be played with balls which a rubber core rather than cork.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They can have all the $12 beer and $10 hotdogs they want. MLB will just reserve the right to adjust those prices for inflation.

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  11. What can we expect if Chaz McCormick is our regular CF in 2023?

    Some folks on this blog love Chaz [and who would not love his oppo-boppo HRs and that one marvelous WS catch in the late innings against the Phillies]. Others, including myself, have expressed a desire that we find someone who can strike out a lot less than he’s been doing and play CF at least some better. But unless something big happens soon, it looks like Chaz is going to be ‘the guy’ roaming CF for us at the beginning of 2023. So, who do his milb stats project him to be?

    His career milb slash line was .278/.362/.764. So far in the MLB that line is .250/.326/.751. Not bad at all – and why shouldn’t we expect at least a little improvement with regular playing time?

    In the minors, Chaz struck out significantly less than 20% of at bats. So far in the MLB he’s struck out significantly more than 30% of at bats. Surely we can expect him to get his strikeout numbers down to a respectable percentage with regular playing time, can’t we?

    One thing we probably should not expect from Chaz is many more HRs – he did not hit for a lot of power in the minors, and his 14 bombs for the Astros last year are probably not something we’ll ever see again. Did he try to trade power stroke for contact?

    In short, if Chaz works hard, and doesn’t try to do too much with his bat, he could actually be a pretty big contributor to the 2023 team – if the FO and/or Dusty give him half a chance.

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    • Chas is not a negative. He hits in the 8th slot when he gets a chance to play and provides better than league average offensive stats. That .332 OBP and 110 OPS+ is probably better than any other 8th hitter in the league. And the K rate dropped from 32.5 to 26 in 2022. And he has hit 14 homers two years in a row.

      I don’t know how good a centerfielder he is, but he’ll still be top 10% in sprint speed league wide and has a better jump rating than most ML outfielders. There are so many conflicting defensive metrics it’s hard to know how good Chas is out in center, but from what I can see, he gets to most balls.

      What’s best about Chas though, is that whenever his hesitant manager decides to give him the nod, he’ll go out there with a smile and bust his butt. That we can all agree on I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am a bit concerned that batting in front of Maldy is forcing Chaz to try to be something he is not [a power hitter] instead of an on-base guy. I realize that getting on base in front of Maldy seems like a waste of energy; but I also think that trying to be a power hitter has changed Chaz’ swing and approach, increased his strikeout percentage, and crippled his development into the player he can become. That is why I think the FO may be seriously considering Conforto, who is more associated with home run power.

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      • Just an idea. If we bat Maldy 8th and Chaz 9th do you think it might make a difference? I don’t know what it might be in relation to # of at bats but my thought is that if Chaz gets on base and turns over the line up that might bode well for Altuve and company with Chaz getting on base. It might also change his approach to the plate as his mission is to get on base, not hit home runs or strike out.

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    • I think Dave pretty much covered. As long as he is batting 8th, and as long as he is pre-arb, he is better than any other option we have.

      I’ve said it before, maybe in the echo chamber of my head, but like Marisnick and others before him, he will eventually price himself out. Once the Astros are on the hook for a few million OR he is forced to move up the order to 6th or 7th, he will be a liability. If the 8th hitter is going to strike out once a game and get on base once or twice, and hit a few dingers, and do it for 900k, that allows the Astros to give Brantley potentially 16M and to pay other positions.

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  12. Jordan Lyles is apparently closing in on a two year deal with the Royals. His contract will likely put him over 40 million in career earnings. How about that for a guy with a lifetime ERA of 5.10!

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    • In Jordan’s defense, last year for Baltimore he averaged 5.59 innings per start [over a whopping 32 starts!]. He has won double-digit games (if that matters anymore) the last two years for less than playoff quality teams [2020 – Texas; 2021 – Baltimore].

      In other words, he’s not overpowering anybody – but he’s slippery when wet.

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