The Astros have won a World Series, the first in franchise history. But they are not satisfied, and want more.
General manager Jeff Luhnow has shown the desire to build a dynasty. Already this off-season, the Astros have added to their bull-pen with the signings of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, two pitchers with playoff experience and proven track records of success.
The team then went out and made the biggest splash of the off-season, trading four prospects including Joe Musgrove for Pirates ace Gerrit Cole. The reigning champions have done nothing but improve this off-season.
But are they done?
And if not, what do they address next?
Priority Number One: Left-Handed Reliever
Personally, I believe the biggest need currently is left handed relief pitching. Last season, Chris Devenski proved the Astros most reliable weapons against left handed batters. Lefties hit only .111 against the Dragon in 144 at-bats. However, Devenski figures to play a more pivotal role in the bullpen, such as the set up man. This leaves acquiring a lefty specialist a main priority. While Francisco Liriano remains an option if Houston chooses to re-sign him, the main target for Houston should be free agent Tony Watson.
Watson as you may recall was a part of the Dodgers squad that failed to take down the high powered Astros in the World Series. He is also a proven reliever who is recognized as one of the top lefty relievers in baseball. The 32-year old finished 2017 with a 3.38 ERA, and struck out 53 batters in 66.2 innings. Newly acquired Gerrit Cole played with Watson in Pittsburgh from 2013 to 2016. The two are close friends, and the chance to re-unite may help Houston lure Watson to Houston.
Another option for Houston would be to dive into the starting pitching free agent market.
They have been rumored all off-season to be in contact with former Ranger and World Series Game 7 hero Yu Darvish.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Darvish was able to stay healthy last season, something he had struggled to do the past few years. While 2017 was not his best season, Darvish has some of the best stuff in baseball and would be a great fourth starter for Houston.
Former Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta is also a free agent and the Astros have expressed interest in him as well. Arrieta finished last season with a 3.53 ERA, and recorded 163 strikeouts in 168.1 innings. The former Cy Young winner is a Texas native, going to high school in Plano, Texas.
He has openly stated that he would love to return to Texas. Even if grabbing the righty means he doesn’t go to Arlington is a win. Adding Arrieta would give Houston a rotation that includes three Cy Young winners. While it is unlikely, man, would that be fun.
Now to play devil’s advocate.
Houston just acquired a top tier starter in Cole, so going after another one is sexy, but not crucial. The Astros is going to need cash to extend the contracts of stars such as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and the future 2018 MVP Carlos Correa. Houston has the next top tier starter in baseball already, as top prospect Forrest Whitley and his 100+ MPH looms heavy in the minor leagues.
Houston is coming off a 2017 season in which they became the World Champions. Already this off-season, the team has made improvements in areas it was needed. Whether the team makes another move this off-season or not, it is hard not be very optimistic going into 2018.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference***