Astros News

How much room for improvement do the Astros have as Spring Training draws closer?

codypoage
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow waves to the crowd during the Houston Astros Victory Parade on November 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 to win the 2017 World Series. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow waves to the crowd during the Houston Astros Victory Parade on November 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 to win the 2017 World Series. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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The Astros are not wanting for much nowadays.

There are necessities and there are luxuries. Any transaction the Astros made this offseason can be construed as a luxury. Unless it involves a competent left-handed reliever. That’s a legit need. A still ongoing need. And I’ll take that one to the grave. On second thought, that’s a bit extreme. How about retirement?

So, how much room for improvement do the Astros have? And before this train of thought goes completely off the rails, any hypothetical transaction has to be realistic. So, no, trading Tony Kemp and spare parts for Mike Trout doesn’t count. It has to be a realistic improvement.

Again, how much do the Astros have to improve?

Um, not much.

Besides the painfully obvious left-handed reliever opening, the Astros do not have much room for improvement. The team is leading the pack in projected wins and project WAR today per Fangraphs.

That said, one could make an argument for a better designated hitter. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over the catcher and designated hitter splits of Evan Gattis. You can check them out for yourself at Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference on your time, but it’s just hard to ignore. Roughly the same amount of plate appearances throughout his career at each position. He’s an above-average hitter at one position and below-average at the other. At the same time, Gattis isn’t a defensive wizard as a catcher. Or any position that I know of. But he can hit, so that carries value by itself.

Again, the Astros do have a luxury of rotating multiple players as the designated hitter. Not much of a concern on this front. Backup catcher, on the other hand, is slightly concerning.

The starting rotation has had durability issues. Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton missed various amounts of extended time last season. Keuchel and McCullers missed extended time the season before. So did Morton, but it was a leg injury. Any addition to this group was viewed as a luxury, though. Like Gerrit Cole. It’s amazing how acquiring Justin Verlander changes the perception of this pitching staff.

The bullpen is fine. Ken Giles is fine. The two main acquisitions, Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, are fine. Like I said, the left-handed reliever role stands out.

Next: The second half ascent of Alex Bregman’s power

Any roster can be upgraded. It just depends on what one team is willing to part with. In fact, Christian Yelich would’ve been an upgrade in the outfield. A realistic upgrade, mind you. Long shot, sure, I’ll give you that. J.T. Realmuto would still be an upgrade. Again, a realistic one. And also a long shot. The Astros would had to swallow a rather large pill, though, in terms of prospects surrender in any deal to realistically improve the roster. Alas, that’s baseball. It’s harder to fleece teams more than ever. Unless Dave Stewart is in charge of your front office.

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