Notwithstanding the difficulties they’ve met and the loss of key players and personnel this offseason, the Astros remain the team everyone will be chasing.
The Astros have been relatively quiet this offseason when it comes to player transactions. Given their financial situation, that’s not overly surprising. There have been no big trades or free-agent signings and they actually lost a couple of top pitchers to free agency in Gerrit Cole and Will Harris.
Half of the moves the Houston front office has accomplished involved re-signing their own players that became free agents following the 2019 season. They brought back Martin Maldonado to man the catcher position and inked Joe Smith to return to the bullpen.
The two new players on the roster aren’t necessarily additions that make significant improvements to any faction of the team. Catcher Dustin Garneau was signed as a free agent to compete for a backup spot and add depth to the position.
Pitcher Austin Pruitt was acquired via trade to add competition for the back end of the starting rotation. Although, if Pruitt continues his improving ways and pitching coach Brent Strom can do his magic, he may be a smart under the radar pick-up.
Looking at the lineup, the Astros still has its core players that have won 100+ games over the last three seasons and have been to two World Series, winning one. Of the 2017 World Series Champions, they still have George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and Josh Reddick. Then we have last year’s addition of Michael Brantley and a full season with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.
As they displayed last season, there is no other lineup as potent as the Astros, from top to bottom. When addressing the press about their search for a new manager, Owner Jim Crane talked about the talent level of this team and his willingness to do what it takes to keep it that way.
"“This is a good ball club. We should have another good season. The team is pretty much intact, and we’ll make additions if we need to, so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come and manage these guys. They are set to win again.” via ABC13.com."
The pitching has changed over the last few seasons, but I feel the starting rotation and the bullpen will still be solid units. As for the starters, the one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are hard to beat. I know it was disappointing to lose Cole through free agency, to the Yankees no less. But, even though Greinke may not be as flashy as Cole, I’d be willing to bet his end results will be right up there with the best.
Then we have the return of Lance McCullers Jr. coming back this season to take the #3 slot in the rotation. He has worked tirelessly to get back into form for this season and declares himself more than ready for a successful comeback season. I don’t think there’s anyone on this team more eager to get the season underway than McCullers.
The fourth and fifth rotation slots are the biggest question mark going into 2020. But the possibilities are promising and it will be interesting to see how things shake out in Spring Training.
They still have Brad Peacock with his experience as a starter and several prospects in Jose Urquidy, Bryan Abreu, and Rogelio Armenteros – just to name a few – that could rise up to the occasion. Then there is the newly acquired Austin Pruitt that could win one of those final spots in the rotation.
Finally, there’s the bullpen. Will Harris is going to be sorely missed, but there is still plenty of talent to go around to make up a formidable relief squad. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, and Joe Smith are returning to follow up there excellent 2019 campaigns. Along with those, there are quite a few young talented pitchers that will be returning. And hopefully, Chris Devenski can bounce back to his 2017 form.
The front office and managerial positions are still in flux, but I have faith that Jim Crane and co. will be able to find capable replacements that will fit in nicely. It will be strange for a while to look in that dugout and not see AJ Hinch. But this team is a strong and close-knit bunch that will put all of the negatives behind them and show the world that this team earns their achievements on determination and sheer talent, and nothing else.