How Astros infield domino effect could pay dividends for revenge tour

BANK ON IT!

The Houston Astros now how their middle infield set for the foreseeable future, with Jose Altuve locked up for six more years and Jeremy Pena under contract through 2027.

Jose Abreu is still under team control for another two seasons, and we all know Alex Bregman could be playing his last year in an Astros uniform.

And let's face it, even if Yainer Diaz doesn't take a step forward this season, there's no way he'll hit worse than Martin Maldonado. So as we examine the infield over the next few years, Jeremy Pena looks like the biggest question mark.

Will he continue to struggle with the bat like last season, or will he bounce back and regain the power he showcased in 2022? Pena is very tough to predict. He went from World Series MVP to a player that had to be pinch hit for in the ALCS last season.

Pena has been working on a new swing this offseason that he's excited to unleash in 2024. Which got us wondering, if he finds his power stroke again, is that enough to say that he had a bounce back season?

When looking at the numbers, the simple answer is yes. He improved his on-base percentage and batting average in 2023. If he can continue to build on that and get back to swatting over 20 homers a season, the Astros infield will be in good shape.

Plus, we all hope Jose Abreu can return to form as well. After a lackluster regular season, Abreu really got things going in the playoffs. Many believe rest was a big part of his postseason success.

If he gets off to a slow start, should the Astros consider platooning him from time to time to get the best version of Abreu?

While many people saw the Astros trade for Trey Cabbage as a left-handed bat that can play the outfield, there's another layer to his game.

Cabbage played over 50 games at first base in the minors last season. So he could be an option with some serious power that could fill in at first.

Finally, if the Astros do move on from Alex Bregman, could Mauricio Dubon be an option to take his place? Certainly he'll never be the hitter Bregman is, or walk nearly as much. But he could be a serviceable option while the Astros look for a permanent Bregman replacement.

Don't miss the video above as we break it all down.

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The Astros have yet to make Bregman an offer, but Kyle Tucker said preliminary talks have begun with him. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Heading into spring training, Astros general manager said the team definitely was going to offer Alex Bregman a contract extension … they’re working on it.

Bregman’s agent Scott Boras said Bregman certainly would be open to discussing an extension with the Astros. For his part, Bregman said he spent the off-season working out like a beast and he’s getting ready for the best season of his career.

And so the waiting game began. Spring training is in full swing and each day the story-hungry media asks, so what’s up with the Astros contract offer for Bregman, who will be a free agent at season’s end if he doesn’t re-up with the Astros?

The media is waiting. Bregman is waiting. You know what Tom Petty said, waiting is the hardest part.

Let me tell you, Godot will show up before the Astros make a public contract offer to Bregman this spring. Public negotiations are a dance, and the Astros are willing to sit this one out.

The Astros kick off their spring training schedule on Saturday against the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach. Bregman likely will take third base and face live enemy pitching without an extension offer in his pocket.

The Astros’ position is well known. They are loathe to offer long-term contracts, let’s say more than five years, for big money, let’s say $150 million. They’ve stuck to their guns several times in recent years.

Bregman’s position is assumed. Certainly if he does have the best year of his career, he’ll be looking for $200 million-plus over seven or eight years.

Irresistible object vs. immovable force. Lines have been drawn in the sand. Will either side blink?

It’s doubtful. Actually, both sides are in a no-win situation at this stage. If the Astros make it known that they’ve made Bregman an offer, one that’s not even close to his expected market value, the team will appear cheap, insincere and just going through the motions. Fans know this has become sort of the Astros thing.

If it gets out that Bregman turned down the offer, and agent Boras is determined for Bregman to hit free agency, Bregman could appear to be just another mercenary soldier putting salary over team loyalty. This is how you pay Houston back for all our love, Alex?

Of course, the best strategy for both sides would be for Bregman to start the season, see how things go, and get serious about an extension in a few months.

There’s one problem with that – the media isn’t letting this go. It's the unrelenting Topic No. 1 each day on Astros talk. And will continue to be. The team and Bregman may have patience about a contract extension, but those beat writers are tired of waiting.

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