Here's the definitive case for Astros doubling down on this specific need

TOP PRIORITY

We learned a fair amount from the GM meetings with Dana Brown speaking to the media about the club's outlook for 2024.

Brown made it seem like the team isn't looking to spend much money in free agency, with a backup catcher and possibly some pitching being on the top of their priority list.

Super agent Scott Boras also had some interesting comments about how the pitch clock led to a rash of injuries to pitchers in 2023. And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, there's a lot of uncertainty to factor in. Justin Verlander is another year older, and missed time due to injury early in the 2023 season. We're also back to not knowing which Framber Valdez will show up from start to start. Hunter Brown and Cristian Javier regressed significantly, and who knows what can be expected from Jose Urquidy after more injuries and an ERA over 5.

Martin Maldonado could fill the need for a backup catcher, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome. So that leaves pitching as the team's top priority in our opinion.

The bullpen could use some attention, with Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek, and Hector Neris heading to free agency, but the starting rotation is where we're focused. For the reasons mentioned above, and because Dana Brown said we shouldn't expect Lance McCullers and Luis Garcia to return from injury until July.

And let's be honest, it's hard to count on Lance McCullers moving forward with his injury history. Plus, Luis Garcia's pitch count will be limited coming off Tommy John surgery. If injuries continue to pile up due to the pitch clock and other factors, the Astros may very well need another middle of the rotation pitcher to eat up innings this season.

Many fans would like to see an upgrade in the outfield, but it doesn't appear to be a priority for the 'Stros with their salary restrictions. They still have Kyle Tucker, Mauricio Dubon, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, and Yordan Alvarez as options in the outfield.

So it's no surprise that Brown views pitching and backup catcher as the team's main focus.

Don't miss the video above as we discuss how the Astros can best deploy their limited payroll for the 2024 season, and much more.

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Raners defeat the Astros, 4-2. Composite Getty Image.

Josh Smith homered twice with four RBIs to lead the Texas Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.

Smith had a two-run shot in the first and added another one with two outs in the eighth to push the lead to 4-1. It’s the first multi-homer game of the 26-year-old’s career.

The Rangers won the last two games of the series after dropping Friday’s opener 6-3. They also got a 2-1 victory Saturday thanks to Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI single in the 10th inning.

Jake Meyers cut the lead to 1 with a solo home run in the third but the Astros went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position to fall to 50-46 entering the All-Star break.

Texas starter Max Scherzer allowed four hits and a run with six strikeouts in four-plus innings in his fifth start of the season.

Jon Singleton walked before a single by Jeremy Peña with no outs in the ninth. There was one out in the inning when Singleton scored on a groundout by Joey Loperfido to cut the lead to 4-2. Trey Cabbage grounded out to end it and give Kirby Yates his 16th save.

Ronel Blanco (9-4) permitted two hits and two runs with five strikeouts in six innings. He settled down after his tough first inning and retired the last 12 batters he faced.

Marcus Semien singled to start the game but was out at second when Corey Seager grounded into a foreceout. Smith gave the Rangers an early lead with his towering shot to the second deck to make it 2-0.

Meyers opened Houston’s third with a shot to the seats in left field to cut the lead to 2-1. Jose Altuve singled with two outs and stole second base but Scherzer struck out Alex Bregman for the third out.

The Astros had a shot to tie it or take the lead in the fifth. Peña and Meyers both singled before Loperfido walked to load the bases with no outs in the inning and chase Scherzer. Josh Sborz (2-0) took over and escaped the jam by striking out Mauricio Dubón before retiring Altuve on a pop up and Bregman on a groundout to end the inning.

Seager walked with two outs in the eighth before Smith connected again to give him 10 home runs this season.

Altuve reached on a fielding error by Smith with one out in the eighth before Bregman singled off José Leclerc. Jacob Latz took over and struck out Yordan Alvarez before Yainer Diaz grounded out to leave Houston emptyhanded again.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Josh Jung (fractured right wrist) swung 15 times off a tee using a regular bat Sunday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he would continue increasing his activity during the break as he nears a rehabilitation assignment.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (neck discomfort) threw a bullpen session of 25 pitches Sunday. Manager Joe Espada said he looked “really good” and would throw another bullpen session during the break.

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