Today’s random thought: Should the Astros seek out to improve their corner outfield situation? Specifically, left field.
Fresh off a World Series championship and a strong roster nucleus intact, the Astros have every right to feel good about their situation. However, this shouldn’t preclude Jeff Luhnow and his front office from making improvements. There is no room for complacency in today’s game.
You may be contemplating on what the Astros can possibly improve on before the 2018 season. A favorite topic right now is the pitching staff. For example, a new closer is high on everyone’s Hot Stove present list. Hint: don’t bet on that one happening. This winter, anyway. A couple of middle relievers, right- or left-handed, would be nice. I have even seen a suggestion or two for a designated hitter. Um, nope. Roster versatility, my friend. Plus, they really don’t need to tie up major dollars in a first base/DH role.
Random thought: How about the corner outfield positions? Like, left field? Bingo.
Earlier this week I wrote about how sometimes left fielder Marwin Gonzalez may be due for a regression in 2018. And I think the same could possibly be said for Josh Reddick. For example, Steamer projections have three-and-a-half win player in 2017 to roughly a two-and-a-half win player next year. By WAR alone, Reddick’s 2017 season comes second to his 4.5 WAR in 2012 when he hit 32 home runs. He’s also projected to drop from his career-high 127 wRC+ this year to an 114 wRC+ the following season. But Reddick will be the starting right fielder. Even if regression hits to a varying degree, the Astros will not rid themselves of him.
Remember that these projections are not infallible. Somehow the Royals and Orioles have defied the projections for a few years before finally regressing. The same is true in the case of an individual player like Reddick. You also can’t rule out continued improvement from Reddick or Gonzalez. Heck, even if regression takes place it may be to a much slighter degree.
Another reason besides regression why the outfield may need a bit of attention: the impending departures of Carlos Beltran and Cameron Maybin.
Of course, Jake Marisnick will slide back over to take Maybin’s spot on the roster, which was originally his before his season-ending hand injury. And Beltran rarely made an appearance in the field this season. Much less left field. Heck, the team even held a memorial service for his glove, which was rarely used. But it is still one less option for the Astros.
And, no, they will not use Gonzalez or Evan Gattis in left field full-time. I’m sure they wouldn’t even want Gattis near left field again. If anything, Derek Fisher may end up being the 2018 Opening Day left fielder.
So, whom could the Astros consider for a corner outfield spot? Especially if they are not enthralled with their internal options in left field.
The free-agent market is littered with options. Older options, though. I doubt the Astros would seriously entertain Jayson Werth or Jose Bautista, even on a short-term contract. Melky Cabrera at this point in his career probably wouldn’t move the needle. Forget about J.D. Martinez coming back to Houston. Lorenzo Cain in the Astros’ outfield would be enticing, but the price tag and lack of fit leaves this in pure speculation mode for me. In terms of other enticing options, there just doesn’t seem to be a fit for Houston in the free-agent market. In my eyes, anyway.
This leaves one more option, albeit unlikely, via trade I would like to briefly discuss: Giancarlo Stanton.
Yes, the Astros already have plenty of offensive firepower in the lineup. They arguably need to shore up the pitching staff instead. But just imagine for a moment Stanton playing his home games in Minute Maid Park?
The possibilities are endless, especially in this lineup. Stanton’s career 144 wRC+ would fit in well with Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and George Springer. Playing left field at Minute Maid Park wouldn’t be bad. And the Astros possess the prospect base to catch the Marlins’ attention. Plus, there is the DH so you could give Stanton at-bats there to help preserve his body.
Alas, I’m getting myself all worked up over a pipe dream. Stanton is owed a lot of money and he also has a future opt-out if he so desires to use. There is no telling how the Astros’ ownership think about that. In terms of immediate payroll, Stanton is owed $25 million starting next year. Of course, this could be a bargain once next offseason takes place and the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign their respective mega-deals. There is also no prediction in how much money that Miami is willing to eat in a potential trade. And the Cardinals and Giants are viewed as the current favorites in the Stanton sweepstakes.
In the long-term, the Astros have decisions to make regarding Correa, Altuve, Springer, Bregman, Keuchel and Justin Verlander. A Stanton-size contract may prevent the team from keeping their own players. There is just too many complications that can make this a realistic option. From a pure baseball perspective though, this pairing would be incredible to watch.
At this point, the Astros are most likely to go from within to fill any outfield vacancy they may have. We will probably see Fisher quite a bit in 2018. And that’s a good thing. But the Hot Stove continues to simmer and you never know when the next big move is coming for the Astros.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs and Statcast**