An important lesson to keep in mind as Astros roll to another ALCS
The Houston Astros are headed to their fifth straight American League Championship Series! This trip was courtesy of the Chicago White Sox, their crotchety old manager Tony La Russa, big mouth relief pitcher Ryan Tepera, and the powers that be who've hated on the Astros (looking at you MLB and ESPN). They upended the White Sox 10-1 in game four of the American League Division Series to win it three games to one. While it might be taboo to look forward to next season, the thoughts about how to keep this gravy train going kept crossing my mind.
The future of a couple key pieces to this run specifically came to mind. Carlos Correa and Justin Verlander have held this team down since their respective arrivals. Correa really stepped up as a leader before last season started in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal and its fallout. Verlander was the unquestioned ace of this staff since his literal last second arrival at the waiver wire trade deadline in 2017. Sure Gerrit Cole fans can make a case for him while he was here, but Verlander helped bring a ring to this city. Both Correa and Verlander are set to be free agents this offseason. Both are at the top of their position groups. Both will command a pretty penny. But should the Astros break the bank to keep both?
In Correa's case, I say no. While his leadership and defense are second to none, his bat can be replaced in the lineup by a cheaper option. He's also 27, looking for a long-term mega deal, and very injury prone. My thought is he'll command somewhere north of seven to eight years averaging $30 million plus per year. It's easy to say Jim Crane should pony up and pay the man, but we have to look at the long-term viability of the team as a whole. Pedro Leon could be the next shortstop if Correa isn't brought back. That, or bring in a third baseman and move Alex Bregman back to his natural position.
When it comes to Verlander, my thoughts run along the same lines. Why pay big money (assuming that's what he's going to want) to a soon-to-be 39-year-old pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery? Sure he's a first ballot Hall of Famer, but this team was able to reach two consecutive ALCS appearances without him. Not to mention the players rejected him throwing out the first pitch at one of the home games in the ALDS because he hasn't been around all year.
Justin Verlander was supposed to throw out the first pitch with Mattress Mac but the players went to Crane and told him they didn't want him to because he hasn't been there all year. No reason to spotlight him now.
— John Granato (@johngranato) October 8, 2021
Gow Media's own John Granato broke that story last week. Considering his teammates feel this way, why would the team bring him back? There are other starters they could spend money on that are much younger, cheaper, and would love to come play for a contender.
The Astros have options. With these two guys' money, along with Zack Greinke's money, all coming off the books, there's room to spend the freed up cash elsewhere and more wisely. Not to mention they may want to keep some of that money to re-sign guys like Framber Valdez, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker. Keeping the dynasty window open is about playing chess, not checkers. Fans have to understand some tough decisions will be made (like letting Cole and George Springer walk). They may not like those decisions at the moment, but everyone loves a winner. In the end, that's all that matters.