Now the Astros have eliminated, it’s time to start looking at how they can return to the World Series in 2019.
We know that the impending free agents are Charlie Morton, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Tony Sipp, Martin Maldonado, and Brian McCann. That is about 28% of the Astros playoff roster in 2018. Looking at that list, I would think that Gonzalez and Morton could be the primary targets for retention. It will cost a pretty penny though.
Also, Lance McCullers‘ status is up in the air at the moment as he could be facing some type of surgery. While the rumor is that he is facing Tommy John surgery, they are keeping a lid on it for now. What happens with McCullers could have a big hand in what their offseason plans are. With two starters set to become free agents after the World Series, they would need to add another starter if they can’t keep one of the players leaving.
Looking at the position players, the biggest need this offseason is at catcher. Maldonado and McCann are both set to test the free agent market. McCann was needed when the Astros traded for him, but injuries limited his 2018 season. His 2019 vesting option did not vest, so the Astros are not saddled by the $15 million salary via Baseball-Reference. The 34-year-old catcher could be nearing the end of his great career, but a young team like the Brewers, Padres, or Phillies could bring him on short-term for leadership.
Maldonado is a great defensive catcher, playoff woes aside, but doesn’t offer too much offensively. According to Baseball-Reference, Maldonado batted .225 with nine homers and 44 RBI. He got the majority of the starts in the playoffs to limit the running game. He did hit a big homer in the ALDS but then went cold at and behind the plate. Of the two catchers, Maldonado may be the most likely to return.
But let’s say that they both leave, the Astros don’t have too many options at the catcher spot. Garrett Stubbs and Max Stassi could be options, but both of their ceilings could be as backup catchers. Stubbs is still relatively an unknown commodity right now that the Astros may not be willing to give him a chance right away. If they want to return to the World Series in 2019, the catcher situation needs to be addressed.
It wouldn’t be an offseason without the Astros being linked to J.T. Realmuto. As we discussed on Talking Stros Sunday night, the Astros should have already added Realmuto, for the price tag has always been high. Will the front office be willing to pay the cost for a defensive and offensive combo player like Realmuto? The better question would be how much do they have to give up?
That would lead to the Astros potentially looking at the free agent market. We have seen them interested in Wilson Ramos before, so maybe this is the time to find a match. Yasmani Grandal is another option, but would the Dodgers let him get away? Some lesser name free agents would be Matt Wieters and Jonathan Lucroy. We will delve into the players later in the offseason, but for now, it is something to keep an eye on. They will upgrade the roster this offseason.