The Astros’ number one need heading into 2019 is quite apparent.
A baseball team can never have enough quality pitchers. Seriously, they cannot ever have enough. Between injuries and seemingly random ineffectiveness, teams always need someone to step up with a game, or season, on the line at any point. Look at last season when the Astros needed Josh James and Framber Valdez to eat innings in September due to injuries to Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton.
If the Astros have one obvious need in 2019, it is merely this: Another starting pitcher.
Since the offseason began, Houston has witnessed sixty percent of their 2018 Opening Day starting rotation go elsewhere — literally or figuratively. Morton is now a Ray in Tampa, McCullers is likely lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and Dallas Keuchel is a free-agent.
The starting rotation currently consists of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Collin McHugh. A lot of unknown follows. This situation is why you’re seeing the Astros linked to pitchers like Robbie Ray and Seth Lugo in various trade rumors. While any addition likely won’t lead to Houston replicating a 3.16 ERA in the rotation all season long, Ray or Lugo would help strengthen a staff in the short- and long-term.
So, why did I choose a starting pitcher as a more obvious need than a catcher? For one, the Astros are in alright shape with Robinson Chirinos and Max Stassi as the primary catchers. While adding J.T. Realmuto would be a boon to the club, Houston won 103 games with Stassi, Martin Maldonado, and an injured Brian McCann last season.
Also, the main reason that the Astros won as much as they did was due to the terrific starting rotation. Already down two critical starters with Keuchel likely signing elsewhere, the front office has some work to do on this front heading into the new year.