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Houston Astros: When Getting Older Is A Good Thing

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Dec 6, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch speaks with the media on day two of the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch speaks with the media on day two of the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros have made significant roster additions in the past two weeks.

Adding Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, and Carlos Beltran. Those players respectively will be 33, 30, 35, 39 years of age by the start of the 2017 season.  This was a Houston Astros team that at times struggled through extended stretches last season. Adding veteran leadership is a quality that is hidden in the statistical analysis of these signings. Let’s take a look back of some of the “veteran leadership” of last year’s squad.

Of the offensive mainstays of last year, Luis Valbuena and Carlos Gomez were the elders at 30 years of age. They were followed by Jason Castro, Colby Rasmus, and Evan Gattis at 29. Yulieski Gurriel is 32 but was such a late add. I don’t think he had a true chance to establish himself in the clubhouse.  Of these names, Valbuena and Castro probably had the best leadership qualities, and they are gone.

“Project Gomez” failed miserably, Rasmus was quietly sent off by the team in the final few weeks of the season, and Gattis contributed well. Gattis does not have the mentor-like qualities as the newly acquired veterans possess.

Adding old guys is not bad.

McCann and Beltran have 29 years of MLB service time combined. McCann has hit 20+ home runs in each season going back to 2008. He will not only will he be an offensive upgrade from Castro, but he will also provide the Houston Astros pitching staff with a savvy mindset behind the plate.  Castro was great defensively and likely called a good game for his pitchers. But his hole in the lineup was an equalizer. Now this Astros pitching staff that lacked consistency will have a proven veteran to help them through tough innings and advise them in big situations.

Return of Beltran.

Beltran is the most intriguing pickup in this writer’s opinion. Houston acquired Beltran in 2004, and he helped boost that team’s offense into the postseason, hitting 23 home runs in 90 games.  He then accepted a lucrative contract from the Mets and had subsequently been jeered by Houston fans ever since.

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Beltran now comes back to the city that has given him an ultimately unfair reception since his departure. He has stated that the lack of a no-trade clause was a big reason of him not re-signing with Houston earlier in his career. Whether or not that was the case back then is irrelevant now, but it is worth mentioning.  Beltran will be 40 years old in April. He will likely serve as a DH for most of his lone contract year.  His hitting is still at a premium. He batted .295 with 29 home runs in 2016.

Apart from Beltran’s baseball skills and MLB service time, is the fact that he is a Puerto Rican baseball hero. Carlos Correa, possibly the Astro’s best young player, could not have been happier with the news of Beltran coming to Houston. He will play with a player he admired as a youth in Puerto Rico.

Sure, there are plenty of statistical references and graphs of how the free agent signings will positively impact the 2017 Houston Astros squad. But from an intangible, clubhouse leadership perspective, the Astros have truly gone from a team competing for an AL West championship, to a team shooting for the ultimate goal of bringing a World Series to Houston.

Orbit and Reddick are finally on the same team.

Josh Reddick brings six years of MLB service time to Houston.  Although his power numbers have declined, his batting average has been on the rise.  He hit .281 last year for his highest career mark. Aside from his stats and experience, Reddick also brings another specific talent to the Astros, in that he has been a Texas Ranger killer.

The Rangers single-handedly kept the Astros out of the playoffs in 2016. Luhnow had to take notice of Reddick’s lifetime .313 average in 72 games against the ball club from Arlington.  The only knock that I have against Reddick is his durability. He has spent some time on the DL in almost every big-league year.  But the Astros have more than enough outfielders to give him a day of rest when needed, to hopefully avoid any major DL stints.

Owner Jim Crane has stated that he thinks that all the big moves have been made for the team. It does leave to question the pitching staff’s capabilities.  Charlie Morton was added, in hopes that he can induce a good amount of ground balls, but it is still an average rotation.  The bullpen is in good shape, but GM Jeff Luhnow should look to add another LHP to the bullpen as Tony Sipp greatly regressed last year.

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Houston has built its team up with youth since Jeff Luhnow came on board, and getting older should be a welcomed change in this situation. Rumors have the Astros linked to Jose Quintana. We will see if this materializes.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

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