Astros Offseason Preview

What’s next for the Astros? A look at the offseason

Carlos Correa needs to get healthy. Houston Astros/Facebook

The Houston Astros came up short in their pursuit of a second straight World Series title, losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS in five games. The series was plagued with poor baseball. Pitchers couldn’t put hitters away with two strikes or two outs, passed balls routinely led to runs, and the offense just couldn’t keep up with Boston.

Confucius once said “study the past if you would define the future,” so in this piece we’ll look at the past with an eye to next year and beyond.

Just because the Astros didn’t repeat doesn’t mean that the window is closed. The San Francisco Giants won in 2010, 2012, and 2014, and there’s no reason the Astros can’t win in 2017 and 2019.


Priority No. 1 this offseason is getting everyone healthy. Don’t be surprised if Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton all have offseason surgery.  If those stars aren’t right, the Astros will struggle to win. Take a look at 2017. While the Astros dealt with injuries to McCullers and Keuchel and role players like McCann, Reddick, and more, all of those guys were healthy for the World Series run. That wasn’t the case this year. Houston will also need to take a look at their own pending free agents, and needs like catcher, designated hitter, left field, and possibly even the starting rotation. Rumors are McCullers may need Tommy John surgery.


Pitchers: Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Tony Sipp, Will Harris (team option)

Hitters: Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez, Martin Maldonado, Brian McCann


Now I’ll take a shot at playing armchair GM and predicting how the offseason will go. First, here’s the roster assuming the Astros sign NONE of the impending free agents.


CF - George Springer

3B - Alex Bregman

2B - Jose Altuve

SS - Carlos Correa

1B - Yuli Gurriel

RF - Josh Reddick

DH - Tyler White

LF - Kyle Tucker

C - Max Stassi


Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers (if healthy), Collin McHugh, Josh James


Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, Framber Valdez, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, Cionel Perez


Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick

That roster doesn’t look nearly as scary as the 2017 or 2018 versions does it?

I think the first move is to bring back one of Keuchel or Morton. Morton is more likely. If Keuchel would sign a deal in the Jake Arrieta range (three-years, $75M) then I’m all for it, but I think Keuchel will search for a longer term deal, even if it means a lower AAV. Since Morton is older and doesn’t have as long of a track record of success, I think the Astros can bring him back at an affordable price. I predict the Astros re-sign him for two-years with a third year option that is either a vesting option or a club option at $15M per year.

Lets shift our focus from the pitching staff to the lineup momentarily. The Astros need to make a trade that I’ve been calling for a long time.

Trade for J.T. Realmuto. It just makes too much sense. Realmuto has a team friendly contract playing for the rebuilding Marlins. He’s arguably the best catcher in all of baseball. Realmuto slashed .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers playing in spacious Marlins Park. He’s also a superb baserunner, something this team needs dearly, and an above average defensive catcher. Essentially, the Astros would go from having a black hole behind the dish to being better than any other team in the MLB at that position. Sign me up.

Astros Receive: Realmuto, Starlin Castro

Marlins Receive: Yordan Alvarez, J.B. Bukauskas, A.J. Reed, Derek Fisher

The Marlins will receive quite the haul for Realmuto. Miami receives the Astros’ #3 and #8 ranked prospects in Alvarez and Bukauskas, and two former top prospects in Reed and Fisher.  Reed keeps raking in AAA and could finally get the opportunity to be an every day player in Miami. Fisher looks like he’s an odd man out in Houston, but similar to Reed, could thrive in Miami once he gets every day at-bats in the majors.  Trading Reed and Fisher also opens up space on the Astros 40-Man roster, which is always needed to protect prospects.

Why Castro? I think he can replace Marwin as an infield utility guy.  I love Marwin, and I thank him for his time in an Astros uniform, but if the Astros can make a deal like this it makes sense.  Marwin is probably worth no more than $12M AAV, and if he came back to Houston on something close to a three-year, $36M deal, I’m all for it, but he will likely make more on the open market.  Castro will make $12M in 2019, the same as I think Marwin should make. He also has a $16M team option in 2020 which will likely be declined. The two are extremely similar in offensive value.  For instance, Marwin had a 103 wRC+ and Castro had a 101 wRC+ in 2018. Castro could back up Altuve and Correa in the middle infield while also picking up plenty of at bats at DH. The Marlins win because they’re trying to shed payroll at all costs, so they clear roughly $18M and pickup a haul of prospects.

As guys like Correa, Cole, and Springer approach free agency, the Astros need to be smart about who they give long term deals to.  The fact of the matter is that guys like Marwin are a luxury, not a need, and that money can be allocated towards other guys long term.  While Castro won’t play the outfield, guys like Kemp, Marisnick, and Myles Straw are more than capable of being backup utility outfielders.  

Now, what about the designated hitter need? I don’t think Gattis, McCann, or Maldonado will be back, so there’s certainly room to add a bat via free agency.  Many will clamor for Paul Goldschmidt, but he’ll require a huge prospect haul as well and catcher is a much bigger need. The Astros should look at Nelson Cruz.  Signing Cruz would be similar to the acquisition of Carlos Beltran in 2017.  Cruz will be 40 years old next season and would be expected to provide veteran leadership and a steady bat the DH spot.  While Cruz isn’t as respected as Beltran, his bat looks a lot less likely to fall off a cliff, as he hit .256/.342/.509 with 37 homers this year in Seattle.  If he could hit .250 with 30 homers in Houston, I’m more than happy. Look for him to sign a one-year deal in the $15M range, whether that be with Houston or somewhere else.


CF - George Springer ($12M)

3B - Alex Bregman ($600K)

2B - Jose Altuve ($9.5M)

SS - Carlos Correa ($5.1M)

C - J.T. Realmuto ($6M)

DH - Nelson Cruz ($15M)

1B - Yuli Gurriel ($10.4M)

RF - Josh Reddick ($13M)

LF - Kyle Tucker ($600K)


Justin Verlander ($28M), Gerrit Cole ($13M), Charlie Morton ($15M), Lance McCullers ($4.6M), Collin McHugh ($5.4M)


Roberto Osuna ($6.5M), Ryan Pressly ($3.1M), Josh James ($600K), Hector Rondon ($4.5M), Joe Smith ($8M), Chris Devenski ($1.4M), Framber Valdez ($600K)


Max Stassi ($600K), Starlin Castro ($12M), Tony Kemp ($600K), Jake Marisnick ($2.4M)

Possible back end of the bullpen guys like Peacock and end of the bench guys like White, J.D. Davis, Kemp, and Marisnick are facing important springs.  Whoever doesn’t win jobs will be subject to waivers, and my guess is teams around baseball will be very happy to claim them. Peacock could be saved if McCullers is out for an extended period of time with an arm injury, but the path to playing time on the offensive side in a lot murkier.


$178.5M is about $15M higher than the 2018 payroll, and would likely place them between 5-7 in all of baseball for the 2019 season.  That number shouldn’t scare fans about the future. Hypotheticals like Cruz and Castro account for $27M of that $178.5M, and they would come off the books after next season, giving Houston the money to re-sign Cole and Verlander if they repeat their spectacular performance.  Gurriel’s contract was front loaded, so he will make less in 2020 than he will in 2019, opening up more money. Relievers Smith and Rondon also come off the books after next season, another $12M in available money. Put simply, the moves above both improve the Astros immensely next season, but also don’t tie up the books long term, allowing flexibility to lock up the superstars Houston fans have come to love.


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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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