The Houston Astros did not need to improve the rotation, but they did so anyway by trading for Gerrit Cole.
The Astros don’t need to add a left fielder, but that won’t stop them from doing it if the price is right. Carlos Gonzalez is still out there on the free agent market, even though he is coming off a down year. There have been some recent moves that could affect Gonzalez’s decision over the next month.
When Jay Bruce signed with the Mets about a week ago, he did so for about $13 million per year for three years. The actual deal is backloaded with $10 million in 2018, but it gives a framework for similar outfielders. Ken Rosenthal said that Bruce was seen as a backup if they had to trade Derek Fisher, which never happened. So, we could be looking for less than $13 million per season.
The Giants and Padres were rumored to be interested in signing Gonzalez as were the Astros. You may be able to eliminate the Giants as they made a deal for Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen. While they could still use another outfielder, they may not be interested in signing Gonzalez to a multi-year deal. For that matter, the Astros may not be willing to go more than one year.
Deal or no deal.
In an offseason where free agents are not getting long-term deals, Gonzalez needs to make his peace with a short-term deal. If he bounces back, then he can show potential teams that he is still worthy of a 2-3 year deal. The Astros could get a similar boost to what Carlos Beltran offered offensively last year. Gonzalez can not offer the leadership that Beltran did, but he can be another veteran on the team.
Because they are paying big money to Justin Verlander, they are looking to make further additions on the cheap. Even Brian McTaggart wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros went out and landed Gonzalez. They did save some money by trading for Cole versus signing Yu Darvish, so there may be some wiggle room.
What about Fisher?
Fisher made his debut last season and came out on fire. He batted .278 with two homers in the first half but dipped down to .203 with three homers in the second half. The league may have adjusted to Fisher, so the Astros may not be sold on him playing regularly. However, his upside could be equivalent to anything that Gonzalez can do. If Gonzalez does sign, Evan Gattis could be asked to be the backup catcher.
My prediction is that the Astros sign Gonzalez for $9-10 million for one season, then Kyle Tucker may be ready in 2019. If Gonzalez plays well, he will help the Astros win the World Series again in 2018. If he struggles, you still have Fisher or Tony Kemp who could get playing time. At this point, I would rather see what Fisher can offer at the plate. If the Astros want to play it safe, Gonzalez can’t hurt under the right deal. It’s quiet on the Gonzalez front though.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***