Welcome to 2018 Houston Astros fans, a new year where they have not won the championship yet.
That can change in 2018 when the Astros challenge for the World Series again, but the tough decisions begin next offseason. Marwin Gonzalez, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel will be free agents, and the team will need to consider alternatives if they leave. The 2018 roster is pretty packed, so the Astros front office is looking ahead.
This rotation is already potentially great led by Keuchel and Justin Verlander. Lance McCullers and Morton showed domination in the playoffs, while Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock will fight for the fifth slot. There appears to be little need to upgrade the rotation. They are looking for cheaper long-term options if Keuchel leaves.
There appears to be no rush to make an addition, but the front office is monitoring the market for top starting pitchers. If they have an opportunity of adding a top pitcher for less than what they are projecting with Keuchel, they might do so. Just keep in mind, no free agent has signed for more than three guaranteed seasons.
So, who is out there? The two big names that you could see the Astros pouncing on if the price is right are Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. According to Jon Heyman, “The Astros met with Darvish, but in some ways, Jake Arrieta would make more sense.” Teams appear to be hesitant on signing Darvish after his World Series performances, but he is still a top pitcher. He was tipping pitches, which is correctable.
What about Arrieta?
Arrieta, like Keuchel, won the 2015 Cy Young award in the National League. He received 17 first place votes that season with Zach Greinke getting ten of them. That year, Arrieta won 22 games with 236 strikeouts in 229 innings. In 2016, Arrieta struck out 190 hitters. Last year he dropped down to 163 strikeouts. He is not the same pitcher he was in 2015, but he is still an elite pitcher.
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Just ask his agent Scott Boras. The rumor out there is that he is looking for a $180 to $200 million contract. That was back in mid-December where Boras felt like the Cubs were out on bringing Arrieta back. Boras compared Arrieta to Verlander and Madison Bumgarner, who have all won three playoff elimination games. This information is from Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune.
Not an option anymore?
Arrieta rejected the qualifying offer from the Cubs, so there is no draft picks tied to him. The market has slowed down, but all it takes is one or two players to go off the board to get the market going. According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs and Cardinals are the top choices. The rumored numbers being floated around in four-years and $110 million by Bob Nightingale.
That’s $27.5 million per season, doubt the Astros would spend that much on Arrieta. However, if Keuchel will likely demand more, maybe they get the job done. If that’s the price of an ace on the market, then they will have to show Keuchel the money. Darvish would be an excellent second option, but the Astros will wait it out. No need to rush into anything.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***