4 X-factors that will make or break the Astros' offseason plans

Going into the offseason, the Astros have a lot of things to consider before they push their chips in on a gameplan.
World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three
World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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McCullers Jr. and Garcia's rehab progress will dictate a lot of Houston's offseason plans

Houston's rotation has some good things going for it heading into 2024. Justin Verlander is certainly in the twilight of his career, but he did show that he still knows how to pitch and it is reasonable to guess that he has at least one more season left in the tank. Framber Valdez is a stud and Cristian Javier gives the Astros a very solid #3. After that, though, things get really murky especially if one isn't bullish on Jose Urquidy's future as a starter.

The fundamental problem right now is that it is unknown as to when we could see Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia return. McCullers Jr. had to finally have surgery to repair his flexor tendon and a bone spur in his throwing arm while Garcia had Tommy John surgery in May. Both guys were pillars of the Astros' rotation and if they get healthy in 2024, they could turn Houston's starting staff into a strength of the roster.

Unfortunately, we won't know much about their timetable to return for a while, but clues may begin to emerge early this offseason. McCullers Jr. is supposed to begin throwing again this fall and Garcia will likely get back after it this offseason as well. If their rehab is going well, the Astros could sign a short-term starting solution to bridge the gap. If not, things could get more complicated especially since Houston doesn't exactly have a ton of money to throw around right now.

In the worst case scenario, Houston may have to turn to the trade market if they need to really beef up their rotation for 2024. They do also have some pitching prospects like Spencer Arrighetti and Colton Gordon who could factor into things as well. Given the number of variables in play, Houston has a lot to figure out and predict and they don't have a ton of time before they will be forced into making a decision.