It is a weird feeling to know it will be four years since the Houston Astros won the World Series in 2017 come the first of November, and looking back on it, it feels like the Astros dominated baseball to a greater extent although only having one ring. The 2017 team is arguably not even the best Astros team of all time, but it was a combination of team work, moving parts including the Justin Verlander trade and momentum to win for the city of Houston.
With every championship team, there comes a supporting cast of players that fans sometimes forget. While not contributing in postseason fashion, these players were among the Astros to play at some point during the 2017 season and be awarded a ring. Four years have come and gone, and the Astros have seen Hall of Fame caliber players travel through Minute Maid Park, but these players, I am about to refresh you on, aren’t those guys; they are the longtime journey men that sometimes go forgotten.
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The 2017 Astros World Series team held some sluggers, but do you remember these players being in a Houston uniform?
Tyler Clippard, RHP
The Chicago White Sox traded Tyler Clippard in 2017 for a player to be named later or cash to the Astros in early August. This was his second move of the season, after the New Yankees shipped him off to the Southside a month earlier. The right-hander didn’t have a huge impact with the Astros; in 16 appearances, Clippard posted a 6.43 ERA with 18 strikeouts. The struggles were there like the rest of his season other than his 11 games with Chicago. Over 14 seasons, Clippard has played for 10 teams, that includes one year or less with eight of them; a true journeyman to say the least. He was awarded his only World Series ring for 2017, although not appearing in the postseason, he was granted free agency soon after. Clippard is still a free agent after his release from the Minnesota Twins in October, as he was one of the many former Astros in the ’20 postseason on a different team.
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Francisco Liriano, LHP
The Toronto Blue Jays traded Francisco Liriano to the Astros at the trade deadline in 2017 for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez (still on the Blue Jays). Liriano had more of an impact than Clippard, as he pitched 20 games in relief. The left-hander would post an ERA of 4.40 and strikeout 11 batters. This wasn’t the best outcome they could’ve asked for from the regular starter out of the bullpen, which possibly led to the Astros trading for Justin Verlander the next month (Liriano would change his number to 46 after this trade). Liriano did appear in the postseason, as he pitched 2.1 innings across three series and giving up only one run. He would be granted free agency soon after and would bounce around for a few seasons. While being on the Philadelphia Phillies roster in 2020, he did not throw a single pitch due to an opt-out. Now 37-years-old, Liriano is on a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, the team that now holds two of the three players from the 2017 trade.
Nori Aoki, OF
This name might be a refresher or even a player that most fans have not forgotten, but the Astros were a home to Nori Aoki in 2017 until they traded him for Liriano. The Japanese born outfielder played only 70 games for the Astros until he was traded, but he was well-liked by his teammates in Houston. 2017 was his final season in MLB, and it included short stints with three team; the other two being the Blue Jays and the New York Mets. While having the most starts in left field for the Astros in 2017, the left-hander slashed .272/.323/.371 with a below average OPS. His trade to Toronto doesn’t seem impactful now, but the Astros got much needed arm depth out of it. Aoki was released by the Blue Jays in late August, and then signed short-term with the Mets soon after. Now, the 39-year-old plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in NPB, where he’s been since 2018. The Swallows are also home to former Astros relief pitcher, Cy Sneed.
The game is changing, and as players will have short major league careers, other prospects are still developing. Baseball is a hit or miss career, and for these players, they are trying to juice out the last possible drops they have left. They were on the right team at the right time with Houston in 2017, and other possible names you might’ve forgotten are J.D. Davis, James Hoyt, Juan Centeno, A.J. Reed, Cameron Maybin, etc. The list can go on for awhile, but what holds true is that the 2017 Astros were a uniquely built team in relation to the dominant players they would gain the next two seasons.