The Astros will be on the lookout for upgrades as the Winter Meetings kick off this week.
As the Winter Meetings kickoff this week, should we expect the Astros to be relatively quiet or active this winter? They missed out on Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani who chose the Angels and NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton who landed in New York. The Astros will respectably have tougher completion in 2018.
Undoubtedly, the American League is getting better and we are just underway this offseason. How exactly does the best team in baseball get better? First of all, the need to keep this team intact. That includes keeping everyone healthy. Another way to keep this team intact is prioritizing and extending the contracts of our top players. This includes the core players who are set to hit free agency in the upcoming years. Getting multiple members of the core extended now will save Houston’s front office the headache of losing them or competing with other suitors who will surely come after these bats.
What exactly is on the Astros’ wish-list for this offseason?
A glaring need is a refreshing of their bullpen. Also, they lost Luke Gregerson, Mike Fiers and Fransisco Liriano this offseason. Let’s be honest, the bullpen wasn’t the strongest in the majors last year and they lost a few pieces.
So, who could be on their radar?
Bryan Shaw (3.52 ERA and 3 saves in 2017)
Jake McGee (3.61 ERA and 3 saves in 2017)
Greg Holland (3.61 ERA and 41 saves in 2017)
Tony Watson (3.38 ERA and 10 saves in 2017)
Watson is a familiar name with the Astros as he was with the Dodgers in the World Series. Shaw would be solid acquisition based on his past history with the Indians. McGee was linked to Houston before when he was a member of the Rays. Holland has rebuilt his value in Colorado since his departure from Kansas City following Tommy John surgery a few years ago.
Frankly, their rotation doesn’t have much of a need. The Astros rotation this upcoming year seems to be set with Justin Verlander, Dallas Kuechel, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh. That’s a solid one through four starters, including two serviceable pitchers in Peacock and McHugh who can give you five-to-six solid innings a piece.
Here is an intriguing concept. On Monday, the Astros have been rumored to show interest in the free agent arms of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and possibly Chris Archer per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. (Warning: subscrption required).
What is intriguing about them flirting with these names? Well, it’s two-fold.
Landing a big name like the aforementioned and signing them to a multi-year contract will fill the void when Dallas Kuechel inevitably tests the free agent waters in 2018, especially after signing sports agent Scott Boras. Secondly, Verlander is only signed through 2019. Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report summarizes the Astros’ “window of contention” in relation to the possibility of a significant financial commitment this offseason quite well.
"“Making a major financial splash now to land an ace makes sense if the Astros want to maximize their window of contention.”"
They’re both coming off solid seasons and 31-years old. In addition, they are both looking to sign with a contender. Who better than the World Series champions? Ken Rosenthal also addresses that the Astros are a data-driven team, which is what I wrote about in this article. But it does make sense to sign another quality pitcher to what’s already a solid rotation to put less pressure on the bullpen. Multiple members of this staff have the potential to pitch seven-to-eight solid innings, which allows the bullpen a chance to rest between games that gives manager A.J. Hinch more flexibility later on in the season. Adding another would be a step towards that idea.
Imagine facing Verlander, Keuchel and Darvish or Arietta in a seven-game series? Sorry, I’m just looking ahead to a scary possibility for opposing batters.
One thing that isn’t necessarily on the Astros’ wish list is the farm system. One thing that could be on the wish list is allowing these players time to play and move up. Don’t forget we have Derek Fisher, who saw some playing time this year in 53 games with the Astros. Furthermore, they still have Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, J.B. Bukauskas and Yordon Alvarrez to name a few. These prospects are moving their way up through Triple-A and could be called up sometime in the upcoming season. Don’t forget that this team was built on efficient scouting and sabermetrics, so I believe in their analytics and personnel decision-making.
Naughty or Nice?
In conclusion, we explored just a few things the Astros could be interested in these winter meetings. Let’s wait and pay attention to see if they get what they asked for. Regardless of the outcome, this shows that the Astros are not content with just one championship, they are looking to build a dynasty.
**Statistics, quotes and information courtesy of Fangraphs, Bleacher Report and The Athletic**