Everyone could see this coming from a mile away. While the Houston Astros currently have one of the best rosters in MLB on paper, every single indication that we got going into this offseason was that the Astros were going to do very little. Despite having to get lucky to win the division last year and several key players getting older, Jim Crane and the Astros' front office never gave any indication that they were looking to try and keep this train rolling.
Admittedly, part of the problem is that Dana Brown was actually aggressive at the trade deadline when he went out and brought back Justin Verlander. The Mets did send some money over with Verlander in the deal, but Houston did commit a substantial amount of their own money to snag the 40 year old and that financial cost will only grow if Verlander's 2025 option vests when he hits 140 innings in 2024.
There are only so many excuses, though. The Astros have been a perennial World Series contender for years now and have been top 7 or better in average attendance in each of the last three seasons. Sure, the Astros haven't totally refused to spend whatsoever over that period of time, but a couple contract missteps (looking at you, Jose Abreu and Rafael Montero) and their hesitancy to spend this offseason does not bode well for 2024.
While the Astros lay dormant, their competition is only getting better
To the front office's credit, they did finally jettison Martin Maldonado and signed the strictly better Victor Caratini to play catcher alongside Yainer Diaz. Beyond that, what have the Astros accomplished this offseason? They lost multiple key bullpen arms as well as Michael Brantley and all they have to show for it is trading for Dylan Coleman who put up an almost 9 ERA with the Royals last year.
Meanwhile, the Rangers just won the World Series, have two young studs in Evan Carter and Josh Jung that will probably only get better next year, and who are pushing to bring back Jordan Montgomery. The Yankees traded for Juan Soto and are top suitors for Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Red Sox are talking a big game about their offseason plans, although a fair amount of skepticism is probably warranted. The Rays will probably promote a couple guys no one has heard of and be great again. The Orioles added Craig Kimbrel and are players on the starting pitching market while possessing one of the best young cores in baseball. That is just the American League side...seeing what the Dodgers, Braves, Giants, Cubs, and Phillies are trying to do in the NL is its own can of worms.
The Astros? Well, at least they haven't traded Alex Bregman away, I guess.
Will Houston be a good team in 2024? Yes, they will. The guys already on the 2024 roster are very talented and will win a bunch of games next year. However, with free agency and Father Time set to claim more and more pieces of their core over the next couple of years, the Astros are sitting back and watching the rest of the league pass them by so far this offseason. Hopefully it doesn't stay that way.