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The Houston Astros need to act fast with expiring contracts

Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros celebrates as he rounds the bases on his two-run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros celebrates as he rounds the bases on his two-run home run against the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning in Game Five of the 2019 World Series at Nationals Park on October 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros need to act fast with their upcoming free agents. Here is a look at whose contracts are expiring with additional thoughts.

The 2020 Houston Astros seemed to be the end of a three-year dynasty, but the team showed resilience while down some of their best sluggers. With the ’21 season right around the corner, it is ideal for the Astros front office to notice that this might be the last year as a contender unless they extend or trade players rather them walk free.

The Astros have struggled to extend George Springer and Gerrit Cole, and with James Click taking over as general manager, we can only hope he re-signs Carlos Correa. Houston has a few big names with expiring deals, and it would behoove them to turn these players into prospects at the trade deadline or offer up the significant amount of cash for the future. If these players aren’t performing to the expectation of the Astros organization, then they should look to send them off to a contender come August. The ’21 season will be a great way to evaluate the future of Zack Greinke, Carlos Correa, Joe Smith, Martin Maldonado and Lance McCullers Jr. Additionally, Justin Verlander will also become a free agent after next season. The team also holds options within the contracts for Yuli Gurriel and Ryan Pressley for the ’22 season.

Zack Greinke

The unorthodox playing style of the Astros third starting pitcher has kept him valuable in the game as he is climbing in age. The velocity has dropped significantly for the right-hander, but his ability to get batters out on groundballs has given the Astros a good five innings each start. Greinke’s last contract was a 6-year, $206.5 million contract that was signed about five years ago, and as many know, Greinke is not at the same level he once was. The Astros may look to re-sign Greinke, whose next contract will most likely be under $10 million per year.

Carlos Correa

Correa has hit some speed bumps with his bat and injuries the last couple of seasons, but he was one of the only Astros to stay healthy all of 2020. While being one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, his bat was average until the postseason. Correa has become an outspoken leader for the Astros and in a recent interview with MLB Network, Click said it will be a two-way conversation, but he would love to bring back the All-Star shortstop. The Astros aren’t looking to deal him and will likely attempt to extend the shortstop. Correa, now 26, is still in the prime of his career, but the ’21 season will help evaluate his status.

Joe Smith

The sidewinder missed all of the ’20 season due to an opt-out because of COVID-19 concerns. Smith will be a veteran set up man for a young Astros bullpen in ’21, but it could also be his last season in Houston. The right-hander is valuable, but there is a lot of talent coming up in the Astros system that could fill his spot in the bullpen. Many teams will be shopping for an extra arm come August, but Smith might not be a primary target.

Martin Maldonado

The catching market doesn’t look like it consists of any big names that could make their way to Houston in the next year, so the future of the Maldonado could be on one-year deals. The right-handed bat of Maldonado has been below average in his career, but his defense has made him valuable. Maldonado, now 34, is making about $3.5 million a season which is in the same ballpark of what he will make if the Astros extend or re=sign him.

Lance McCullers Jr.

McCullers Jr. had a shaky season after Tommy John surgery. He has been known for his curveball, but hitters were coming more around to the breaking pitch. As a 27-year-old, he is looking for his first big contract, and it might not be with the Astros. Out of all the expected free agents, McCullers Jr. has the most to prove after a shaky 2020. With a full Spring Training and an expected full season for 2021, we can expect a more refreshed McCullers Jr., but he will need to work on his command as he gets into jams.

Justin Verlander

Verlander is expected to see time in October if the Astros make the postseason. While being the oldest player on the team, the 38-year-old is recovering from Tommy John. The right-hander is making $33 million a year and is a pitcher who can play into his 40s, but the contract will be worth much less. The Astros will need a veteran arm to stay in the rotation to help the success of the younger arms along with the team as a whole. There’s zero trade value in Verlander, but the Astros can re-sign him next winter on a short-term deal. Verlander is escaping his second prime that was relived in Houston, but he can still be a valuable arm in the middle of the rotation.

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