EYES ON THE PRIZE

5 thrilling Astros New Year's resolutions to keep an eye on

Here's hoping for a championship year in 2022! Composite image by Jack Brame.

Even though it's been a few days since the calendar flipped from 2021 to 2022, It's never too late to make some New Year's resolutions.

For the Astros, their number one goal is to not only make it back to the World Series, but to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy at the end of the season.

If Houston would like to return to the World Series for the 4th time in six years, a few things need to be done prior to the start of their 2022 campaign.

  • Re-sign Correa

Let’s address the elephant in the room, the Astros should be all-in to re-sign the two time All-Star shortstop within reason. It has become public knowledge that Correa wants a 10 plus year deal worth over $300 million.

The Astros offered him a 5-year deal worth $160 million which was rejected, and the Detroit Tigers were willing to give the 27-year-old a 10 year $275 million offer. This was turned down by his party as well.

There were reported talks between Correa and both the Yankees and the Cubs before MLB entered into their lockout. Needless to say, there are still some suitors left vying for his service at that price.

It can be assumed that the Tigers are out of the sweepstakes after they signed Javier Baez to a 6-year $140 million deal. That fills their need at shortstop, leaving only a few teams left in his market.

If New York and Chicago are unwilling to give Correa the contract he desires, he could lower his asking price, bringing the Astros back into the mix to re-sign their All-Star shortstop.

If a different club signs Correa once free agency resumes, Houston needs to look at other options.

  • Have a back-up plan at shortstop just in case

The Astros supposedly had interest in Colorado Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story before the work stoppage occurred.

Of course, Correa’s ceiling is much higher than Story’s, but the 29-year-old Texas native could still provide an All-Star level of production in Houston’s infield.

He is a better option than the Astros have in-house as well.

Theoretically, Houston could move Alex Bregman to a SS role which he is familiar with, but his best baseball seems to be played at 3rd base and a position would need to be filled at the hot corner.

Another option could be Aledmys Diaz as the full-time shortstop, but he seems to be best used in the utility role. He provides much-needed bench depth, and is capable of giving an infielder a day off. Although not a terrible option, Diaz's versatility is best utilized as a bench role, so the team would prefer to use someone else.

The Astros could call up Jeremy Pena or Pedro Leon to fill that void, but they may not be ready just yet.

Signing a veteran like Story would extend their championship window by a few years.

The team still has almost everyone under contract past the 2022 season, except for players like Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley.

Ultimately, if the Astros can’t sign Correa, they should sign Story to play shortstop. He would be a cheaper option, and could still bring an elite level of production to shortstop.

  • Retool the bullpen

With the departures of Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia and Brooks Raley, Houston may look to add some necessary arms to upgrade their bullpen this offseason.

Ryan Pressly had an All-Star season as the team's closer and Ryne Stanek has developed into a decent late inning arm who could be used in different spots, but there is always room for more relief pitchers.

The best remaining free agent relievers left include Kenley Jansen, Ryan Tepera, former Astro Collin McHugh and Brad Hand. Any of these players could fill a 7th or 8th inning role and be a serviceable arm out of the pen if the Astros are willing to spend this offseason.

Houston should also be receiving a healthy Pedro Baez back, who could fill that 7th or 8th inning role as well.

Cristian Javier preformed well at the beginning of the season. He was moved from a staring pitcher role to a relief position and could take the mound for some important innings down the stretch in the 2022 season.

The bullpen is already strong, but it can become deadly if some key additions can be made.

  • Starting pitching depth

The Astros realized they had a lack of quality starting pitching depth once Lance McCullers went down with a forearm strain during Game 4 of the ALDS. Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia and Jose Urqudiy were supposed to fill that void he left behind, but had very hit or miss performances throughout the remainder of the postseason.

Valdez had one great start in which he pitched eight innings and allowed only three hits during Game 5 of the ALCS. Every other postseason appearance the 28-year-old failed to record more than 4.1 innings of work.

Garcia also fell victim to inconsistent outings, as he only threw for more than five innings once during the postseason.

The re-signing of Justin Verlander should help the pitching depth and McCullers could come back and have a strong 2022 campaign.

Houston will most likely not retain veteran Zack Greinke, giving the Astros a potential rotation of Verlander, McCullers, Valdez, Garcia and Urquidy.

Jake Oddorizzi could factor into this pitching staff as well. The 31-year-old still has two years left on his contract, and it seems the Astros will either give him one more opportunity to become a starter or trade him before the season starts.

Houston should sign one more starting pitcher to be safe before the season starts to add a bit more depth.

  • Have baseball in 2022

As of December 1st, Major League Baseball is in a lockout, therefore players cannot sign with any team or even speak to their respected clubs. Aside from a few minor meetings here and there, the owners and the Major League Players Association have yet to formally work out a deal.

Baseball is in a state of limbo with no end in sight. The hope is that a deal will get done before Spring Training starts on Saturday, February 26th.

In order for the Astros to accomplish these resolutions, Major League Baseball must first find an end to this work stoppage.

This year wouldn’t be the same without baseball. Let’s hope both the owners and the MLBPA feel the same way.

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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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