3 pending free agents the Astros need to let walk and 1 they need to keep

The Houston Astros a few pending free agents that they shouldn't bother to bring back next season.

Jun 24, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA;  Houston Astros left fielder Michael Brantley (23) at Yankee
Jun 24, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Michael Brantley (23) at Yankee / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
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The Astros need to finally let Martin Maldonado go

Much has been made of Martin Maldonado's role on the Houston Astros in 2023. Before this season, Maldonado's lack of production at the plate could be lived with because of how good he was defensively as well as his expert management of the Astros' pitching staff. Catcher is the one position where teams often have to make that offensive sacrifice and until this season, Maldonado has been very worth doing so.

The problem, of course, is that every part of Maldonado's game went south this season INCLUDING his defense. Not only has his offense been atrocious with a 61 wRC+ (that's bad) in 343 plate appearances, but he has also put up the worst defensive metrics of his career by a wide margin in 2023. Maldonado just looks like a guy that can't do the job anymore.

With Maldonado set to hit free agency, the front office needs take the decision out of Dusty Baker's hands and let him go. The entire Houston organization very clearly loves Maldonado a lot and the intangibles he brings to the table do have value, but they don't outweigh his lack of production on the field anymore. Maybe Maldonado can call it quits and become a coach for Houston. That could be nice. However, with Yainier Diaz being the significantly superior player and the Astros needing to take advantage of these next few seasons, Houston just needs to let Maldonado walk.

Houston can do better than Ryne Stanek

Bullpen arms are a fickle, fickle thing. You always want to have upside in your bullpen and Ryne Stanek as a lot of it with as hard as he throws. Astros fans saw what he is capable of when he is dialed in last season when he posted a 1.15 ERA in 59 appearances in 2022. However, the 2023 season has been a reality check regarding just how volatile relievers can be especially when they struggle to find the strike zone.

Stanek's issues with walks are not new. He walked 5.1 BB/9 last season when he had the best season of his career. However, that sort of walk rate is never sustainable and with a slight dip in his strikeout rate, it is clear that opposing hitters aren't offering at his stuff out of the zone as much anymore with the end result being a 4.05 ERA and 4.29 FIP in 2023.

As tempting as it could be to consider running things back with Stanek to see if he could find lightning in a bottle again, their are just going to be better relief options on the free agent market who won't break the bank and who throw more strikes than Stanek.