Last night, at the close of Day 3 of Winter Meetings, Houston Astros GM Dana Brown told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, "Progress means we’re having some productive conversations and you feel like you’re getting a little bit closer on making a move, and it’s exciting." This, in a way, sums up the 2023 Winter Meetings as a whole. Brown expressed an excitement over progress that leads not toward the move itself but toward...more progress? These Winter Meetings have been usually, strangely inert, marked by a lot of chatter and few deals actually coming to fruition. Is that exciting, Dana Brown?
This very well could've just been the vague GM speak that most of the executives floating around the Gaylord Opryland Resort have been using over the past few days, or (and this feels more likely) it reflected an unwillingness to acknowledge how little actual progress most teams have made over the last few days.
A quiet Winter Meetings is the last thing the Astros needed
The Astros seemingly closed more doors than they've opened over the past few days, and answered few questions as to the state of the team next year. Alex Bregman will not be traded this offseason. Jake Meyers, who was receiving some rumored interest as a trade candidate, will not be traded this offseason. They did find a backup catcher in Victor Caratini for two years and $12 million, and they reemphasized relief pitching as a priority, but have thus far neglected to sign any relief pitchers.
They have reported interest in free agent reliever Jordan Hicks, but there's no real movement there so far. Meanwhile, the relief market is slowly slimming down; Kirby Yates signed with the Rangers and Chris Devenski is going to the Rays. These aren't huge names, and they may not have even been the Astros' radar before they signed, but it highlights the frustrating inaction on the part of the Astros. The Orioles are also getting in on the reliever action, as they're believed to be nearing a deal with Craig Kimbrel.
Brown has been using words like "promising" a lot over the last few days, which at this point carries just about as much weight as "interested." He's optimistic about getting something done before the end of meetings, but what? Are the Astros more active on the trade market or the free agent market? Brown would say both. Can he quantify progress on either end? Not really.
Maybe this is ungenerous — there's still a full day left in the conference for Houston to try to make some real progress, not just progressing toward more progress, in bolstering their bullpen ahead of next season. But the clock is ticking, and something's got to give.