Best: Astros sign Charlie Morton to a two-year, $14 million deal (Nov. 16, 2016)
This was a pretty easy choice. No one really expected much when the Astros brought in the veteran journeyman Morton. It was thought he would simply eat up some innings at the back end of the rotation. He had just turned 33 and only made four starts in the previous season due to injury.
Well, the Astros helped him change his approach and redefine himself as a pitcher. He ditched the sinker for a four-seam fastball that reached the upper 90s and suddenly became a force. He went 14-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts that first season and was on the mound for the final out of the Astros’ 2017 World Series championship.
Morton was even better in 2018, leading the majors in winning percentage and going 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts, striking out 201 batters. All told, he put up a 3.36 ERA in 55 regular season starts with the Astros, making that contract look like an absolute steal.
Unfortunately the club did not re-sign him after that 2018 season and he ended up in Tampa where he was even better, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting. He made more money with the Rays in 2019 than he did over the life of his two-year deal with Houston.
So far, the Michael Brantley signing has turned out quite well. The Astros inked him to a two-year, $32 million deal prior to the 2019 season and he cemented himself as a reliable veteran bat in the middle of the lineup. The 32-year-old hit .311/.372/.503 with 40 doubles, 22 homers and 90 RBIs and earned his fourth career All-Star selection.
Despite the fact that his season ended poorly, the Wade Miley signing was still an excellent move by the Astros. He made 33 starts and went 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA, providing stability in the middle of the rotation at a reasonable $4.5 million price for one year.
The club brought in Colby Rasmus on a one-year, $8 million deal prior to the 2015 season and he rewarded them with a .238/.314/.475 line and 25 homers. He accepted the club’s qualifying offer after the season and had a poor 2016 while making $15.8 million, but the initial one-year deal the Astros gave him was money well spent.
Some more money well spent was the one-year, $5.75 million deal given to Robinson Chirinos for 2019. He provided above-average offensive production and caught all of Justin Verlander’s innings. Though he’s likely going to play elsewhere next year, that’s a deal the club would make again.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Yuli Gurriel, who’s making $47.5 million on a five-year deal. He was an amateur free agent, but this was much different than your typical amateur free agent signing. He’s turned in a .293/.330/.478 line in four seasons and put up his best year yet in 2019 with 40 doubles, 31 homers and 104 RBIs, also finishing as a Gold Glove finalist.