The Houston Astros have plenty of holes on their roster and may not have much money to spend headed into the virtual Winter Meetings.
The annual Baseball Winter Meetings were supposed to start Monday. Instead, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage across the country, the meetings will be held virtually.
It remains to be seen how this will affect teams’ aggressiveness and negotiations, but the Astros’ needs are clear. Here is a breakdown of their top three needs heading into one of the most important weeks of the offseason.
What is going on in the outfield?
The worst kept secret in baseball is that the Astros need outfielders. A lot of them. George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all free agents and Reddick has already indicated that he will not return.
Springer is most likely playing elsewhere next year. Brantley appears the best bet to return, but his market is said to be strong by rival executives and not a sure thing to return.
Early on, general manager James Click has been aggressive exploring the market for outfielders. There is little certainty of who the team will have in the outfield next year, but that should come into focus this week as the Astros meet virtually with agents and other teams. This is by far their top need and something the team understands it must address in a big way this winter, perhaps with Jackie Bradley Jr. and one or two other free agents.
What about a late inning arm?
The talk of baseball has surrounded the Astros needing an outfielder, but the team desperately needs an arm for the late innings. Roberto Osuna is no longer with the team after he was placed on outright waivers. Even then, he was no sure thing to be productive in 2021 while he tries to pitch through a partially torn UCL.
The Astros are likely to spend to acquire a quality late inning option, and the names of interest include Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen and Brad Hand. Of the three, Hand seems the most likely on a short-term deal as the front office looks to maintain long-term financial flexibility.
The Astros need starting pitching.
Another need for the Astros is additional starting pitching. With Justin Verlander out for the season, the team lacks the depth that recent seasons have proven it needs.
It is unlikely the Astros and Click look to add a top starter such as Trevor Bauer or anyone of that caliber. But the feel here is that the team will look at low-risk pitchers with upside, with one name to keep an eye on being former Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams. His recent success with Pittsburgh would make him an interesting reclamation project for pitching coach Brent Strom, who turned a former Pirate (Gerrit Cole) into a $300+ million pitcher.
Of the Astros’ three needs, this is the least pressing. Even then, adding another starting pitcher feels like a must and something the team will likely take its time in adding.