Over the past few months, the Houston Astros and even the fans knew that a return of All-Star George Springer was slim-to-none. During this time, outfielders have been reported in talks with the Astros, a possible trade for Andrew Benintendi has been reported, and even fan speculation has been sketched into our minds that we start believing they might happen.
The Astros entered the offseason with a checklist, and while Michael Brantley has re-signed, Houston will not find a true replacement for Springer, as there isn’t a player on the market like him. The closer role has also not been identified, but after the signing of Steven Cishek and the depth added from Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez, the bullpen has multiple options including the youthful arms in the system. Trevor Rosental has been identified as the best possible closer on the market, but his price range could be out of the Astros’ wants.
Per Spotrac, the Astros have about $12,692,024 to spend for the rest of this offseason, but if Cishek makes the roster that number could drop to $10,442,024. Also, other minor league signings could make more money if they do make the active roster come April. It is a tough situation, but a large amount of players stand as free agents, some could be signing one year deals and then evaluating the market next offseason.
The Houston Astros have the money to sign one more big name; could that be Jackie Bradley Jr.?
The former Red Sox centerfielder has stepped back and evaluated the market in the last two months, and while the Astros do have Myles Straw, Chas McCormick, Steven Souza Jr., and possibly Jose Siri available to play the centerfield this season, JBJ would be an upgrade. The thought of signing JBJ has been a rumor and opinionated topic since October, and as the Astros are still front runners for the left-handed bat, I think this is the last possible signing that Houston could make.
While the 40-man roster is full, there isn’t a clear player that is at risk of being traded or designated for assignment, but this would be the quickest way to sign JBJ. The other option is to hope he can wait until the start of Spring Training when teams are allowed to move players to their 60-day injured lists. This move would include Justin Verlander and Josh James.
JBJ isn’t Springer, and anyone who watches baseball knows that. Theoretically, he can be almost like a slight rental for the next two years, as the Astros wait on the progression of Cuban prospect standout Pedro Leon. If everything pans out, Leon is the future of centerfield in Houston, but for right now, this Astros team is looking to contend for another pennant, and the best way to do that is sign a centerfielder that is close to what Springer provided.
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The one-time Gold Glove winner has been a slightly below average hitter in his career, but he has seen a resurgence in his bat in the past year. The one-time All-Star posts .239/.321/.412 in his career at the plate, but a 2020 surge is what will bring him cash. In 217 plate appearances, the left-hander slashed .283/.364/.450 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. With an OPS over .800, JBJ looks to be in good shape, but it also shows that he has changed is approach at the plate. The free agent relied on slugging percentage to evaluate his ability at the plate, but in 2020, his batting average climbed due to slashing singles rather than swinging for the fences. His high strikeout rate in the past also dropped, and another left-handed bat would be valuable in the bottom half of the lineup. JBJ might not be the answer for the leadoff role, but as the season progresses and these numbers stay the same, he could take the spot.
There are other options on the market if the Astros decide to go to another relief pitcher or possible depth in Brad Peacock or Collin McHugh (all speculation, no reports), but the fact stands is that Houston would be a top five dominant starting nine if they were to add JBJ. While wanting a long-term contract, the former Red Sox centerfielder might have to settle for a two-year deal with the Astros that could include around $10 million a year if Houston doesn’t want to go over their threshold.
Based on need, the Astros should heavily target JBJ in the coming weeks. As we inch closer to the start of Spring Training, Houston will need to map out their options for centerfield if they do not sign the former Red Sox centerfielder.