EYES ON THE PRIZE

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

Astros Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley
Here's hoping for a championship year in 2022! Composite image by Jack Brame.
How giant piles of money, fearless predictions & reputations hinge on Astros World Series

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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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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