The Houston Astros' quiet offseason thus far has been a hot topic of conversation. Between a pretty loaded roster that is difficult to upgrade in some ways to self-imposed payroll limitations, Houston is in a weird place right now despite the fact that they are still among the better teams in the American League going into the 2024 season.
So far, the moves have indeed been minor. The Astros brought in Victor Caratini to back up new everyday catcher Yainer Diaz, but there has been little in the way of reinforcements for either side of the ball beyond that. However, there was at least a bit of progress yesterday as the Astros made the move to sign Chris Gittens to a minor league deal.
Astros sign Chris Gittens in a low-risk gamble
Drafted back in 2014 by the Yankees, it wasn't that long ago that some thought that Gittens could be a nice source of power in the Yankees' lineup after a long climb through the minors, but it was not to be as Gittens slashed .111/.250/.194 in 16 games with the Yankees in 2021 and New York released him that November.
However, Gittens gaudy minor league numbers were enough to get him an opportunity to play in Japan. He did not play a lot while overseas, but his 2023 numbers in just 15 games were pretty gaudy as he posted a 1.230 OPS which was apparently good enough to convince Houston to give him a shot on a minor league deal.
If the Astros were relying on Gittens to fill an everyday role, this move would look a lot worse as he simply doesn't have the track record of hitting against elite competition or being able to stay on the field. That said, Gittens is a talented dude with some real pop in his bat and he is still "only" 29 years old. Signing him to a minor league deal eliminates any risk or opportunity cost and there is a chance that he shows something this spring. If not, Houston doesn't really lose out on anything.