The Houston Astros were another interesting team this postseason that people were surprised by not making the World Series. The head-scratching nature of them struggling at home during the regular season with and then transitioning to the playoffs is mind-boggling. The veteran team had the talent to make the jump to the World Series but got out-dueled by a formidable Texas Rangers offense.
Dusty Baker’s retirement throws a wrench into the plan for the Astros because of the need to find a manager who can steer them to the promised land once again. This offseason they have some interesting names that they need to resign and things that they need to improve within their team to have another successful season in 2024.
Who Could Be on the Move?
The Houston Astros front office did a good job locking up their core players so this offseason they do not have too many big names on the move. They made moves for power hitter Jose Abreu that at first looked like a bust but in the playoffs helped this team win games. The Astros front office will need t be strategic to make moves that can help them like Abreu did.
Their first decision is whether they want to resign Michael Brantley to an extension. The 36-year-old has been riddled with injuries this season by only playing in 28 games during the regular season. In those games, he hit .313 with zero homeruns and 11 runs batted in. With his injuries, he may not be looking for a large contract, but the biggest concern is if he can stay on the field consistently.
Next up, is Martin Maldonado who has been the starting catcher for the Astros and has been integral on the defensive side of the field. He led the league in assists as a catcher and has a good rapport with starting pitcher Justin Verlander. With young catcher Yainer Diaz ready to take on the starting role it will be interesting if they keep Maldonado as a mentor to the young catcher.
And lastly is a group of relief pitchers that have all made impacts on the Astros pitching staff. This includes Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton. Neris finished the regular season with a 1.71 earned run average with 68 innings and 77 strikeouts and has a player option for next season. Stanek finished with a 4.09 earned run average in the regular season with 50 innings pitched and 51 strikeouts. And Maton with a 3.00 earned run average with 66 innings pitched and 74 strikeouts on the year. These three relievers all played vital roles in the bullpen so it would be interesting to see if they can bring them all back.
How do the Astros Improve?
When looking at how the Astros got eliminated from the playoffs it was not on the pitching side of things it was the lack of offense produced. The bottom of the lineup is with Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, and Jeremy Pena combing three for sixteen in game seven of the ALCS. I think the first option for the Astros to improve is upgrading their left fielder.
In free agency, they could go for names like Joc Pederson, Mark Canha, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to fill play left field for the Astros. I think their best bet is to try and get Joc Pederson because it would add another left-handed power bat in a very hitter-friendly park.
Another route is to bring someone up from their minor league system. Kenedy Corona is one of the Astros top rated prospects who hit .244, 20 homeruns, 61 runs batted in, and 31 stolen bases in 111 games played in AA this past year. He could be a player who could make an impact on the basepaths as the core of the Astros continues to get older.
On the pitching side of things, I think they need to resign Phil Maton and pick up Hector Neris’s player option. Both players were vital pieces to that bullpen all year. An interesting pick-up would be Reynaldo Lopez who bounced around this past year but at his best can be formidable with a team ready to compete. This Astros team will be back towards the top of a very competitive American League West next year but with some of these moves, they can remain as a contender each year