With Astros reloaded for contention, new opportunities have arisen for leadership & evolution

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Shortly after the Astros signed Josh Hader to a 5-year $95 million contract, Hector Neris agreed to a much smaller deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Before the signing of Hader, Neris was rumored to be looking for a 3-year $50 million deal. Clearly that wasn't what the market was willing to pay Neris.

Which made us wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, would Jim Crane rather have signed Neris to the cheaper deal?

In our opinion, no. Part of the reason behind the Hader signing was adding more youth to the Astros bullpen. Not only for the short-term, but also as a tactic to prepare for life after Ryan Pressly, who will likely be gone after the 2025 season.

The Astros lost 4 relief pitchers this offseason

Considering how many bullpen arms won't be back for 2024, how much better is this year's 'pen after adding Hader?

Leader of the pack

Finally, with so many team leaders not returning for 2024, who will step up for the Astros and lead the team moving forward?

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

If you enjoy the videos, subscribe to SportsMapHouston on YouTube for our latest content!

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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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