MLB Offseason Preview: Houston Astros

MLB Offseason Preview: Houston Astros

by November 29, 2021 2 comments

The Houston Astros had a huge season, bouncing back after a sour 2020 campaign and proving to the baseball world that they remain one of the best teams in the sport. Of course, despite being crowned American League champions, all is not perfect for the Houston franchise. This team has several impending free agents, including star shortstop Carlos Correa and reliable veteran starter Zack Greinke. It will be imperative for the Astros to remain aggressive this offseason, especially if they can’t re-sign those two impact veterans.

Offseason Strategy

The Astros’ biggest need comes at shortstop. Assuming they are unable to poach Correa from another team with deeper wallets, they will need to do their best to snag another potential franchise star. Correa was one of the centerpieces of the Astros’ organization, and the team will surely feel the void left by his departure. Houston also has a clear need for pitching help. While they mainly need to stockpile their rotation, they also need to make some low-cost additions to their bullpen.

Keys to the Offseason

Replace Correa at shortstop

This is easier said than done, and although the Astros won’t be able to sign someone of Correa’s caliber (assuming they don’t simply re-sign him), they need to find a quality replacement. The shortstop position is so imperative and often dictates a team’s success. If the Astros want to remain competitive in this ever-growing league, they will have to make a move for a legitimate shortstop.

Pitching, pitching, pitching

This applies to every team, but the Astros need more pitching help. They did extend Justin Verlander and poach Hector Neris from the Phillies, but they also lost Yimi Garcia to Toronto and Kendall Graveman to the White Sox. Right now, Houston should look to add some mid-rotation, as well as depth pieces for their bullpen. On a positive note, the Astros do have a premier closer which isn’t something that every team can say. They’ve lucked out in that department.

Shore up the catcher position

The Astros traded away catcher/outfielder hybrid Garrett Stubbs while Martin Maldonado hit free agency. It would not be shocking to see Houston re-sign Maldonado, but if they can’t, they’ll need to make an addition behind the dish to ensure that they don’t have to trot out Jason Castro on a daily basis. This doesn’t have to be a big name, but rather someone with an average bat and a trustworthy defensive makeup.

Offseason Targets

Javier Baez, 28, Shortstop

Of the four elite shortstops on the market (Correa, Baez, Trevor Story, and Corey Seager), Houston should try to sign the cheapest. Baez seems like the cheapest of the crop, and the experts at Spotrac agree, so he’s the choice here. Soon to be 29 years old, Baez had a down year while splitting 2021 between the Cubs and Mets. He slashed just .265/.319/.494 with 28 walks and a career-most 184 strikeouts. However, he did swat 31 home runs, steal 18 bases, and post three outs above average. He’s also not far removed from leading the league in outs above average in 2020 (nine) and 2019 (32). Baez can still be one of the biggest stars in baseball, and Houston would give him a great stage to show off his talents while spinning double plays with Jose Altuve.

Martin Maldonado, 35, Catcher

While not a phenomenal hitter, this match just makes sense. Maldonado has been with the Astros since 2019 and appeared in 125 games this past season. Despite splashing .172/.272/.300, the backstop swatted 12 homers and finished with a modest 47 walks and 127 strikeouts. Most importantly, he gives Houston a cheap yet serviceable option behind the dish.

Yusei Kikuchi, 30, Starting Pitcher

The Astros don’t need a frontline arm but rather someone who can pitch a modest number of innings and, quite simply, be a reliable option on a playoff-contending team. Kikuchi was solid this past season with the Mariners, going 7-9 with a 4.41 ERA, 62 walks, and 163 strikeouts. He was especially dominant against left-handed hitters, amassing a .147 OBA and 0.76 WHIP against them. After opting out of his deal with the Mariners, it would not be surprising to see Kikuchi sign a multi-year deal in an AL West division that he is quite familiar with.

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Andersen is a teenage sportswriter and reporter whose articles have appeared across the Prime Time Sports Talk, Sports Illustrated Kids, FantasyPros, and SB Nation platforms. He has also received credit from RotoWorld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, The Athletic, SB Nation, NBC Sports, NY Post, and dozens of other sports sites for his reporting work.

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