3 mistakes the Astros absolutely cannot afford to make at the Winter Meetings

The Astros need to make sure they don't screw things up at the Winter Meetings if they want to keep competing at a high level in 2024.

Oct 22, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) reacts
Oct 22, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) reacts / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Astros Rumors: Houston cannot let Hector Neris go without a fight

One free agent that isn't getting enough attention at the moment is reliever Hector Neris. This isn't that surprising as non-closing relievers are often overlooked, but Neris was an absolute stud for the Astros in 2023. In 68.1 last season, Neris struck out 77 batters while posting a 2.5 rWAR and a 1.71 ERA. In short, the Astros don't win the AL West last season without Neris in the bullpen, period.

Unsurprising, Neris declined his player option and is likely to get a significant raise going into 2024. There are going to be teams interested in having him as their closer and there are going to be teams that want him to do exactly what he did with Houston last season. While bullpen arms are yet again the deepest pool of players in free agency this offseason, Neris is in the top tier of the relief arms available and will have no shortage of suitors.

The Astros simply cannot afford to let Neris sign elsewhere without making a strong push to bring him back. Houston's bullpen has been ravaged with Neris, Phil Maton (who they should also try to bring back), and Ryne Stanek all becoming free agents and that leaves the Astros in real need of rebuilding their relief staff. Given Verlander's age and the injuries to key starters, Houston simply has to have a strong and deep bullpen going into 2024.

Assuming that it is true that owner Jim Crane could be convinced to spend a little more than usual, Neris is more than a worthy target. He isn't going to come cheap, but his salary demands are still going to be less than signing a decent starter or outfielder is going to cost and bringing him back would shore up what is shaping up to be the Astros' biggest weakness going into next season.

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