The Houston Astros haven't been built like many championship juggernauts throughout baseball history. They've avoided long contracts, they let home grown talent walk, and they tend to go more for the under the radar acquisitions than the big splash.
While the Rangers just spent $800 million in two off-seasons to revamp their roster and win a World Series, the Astros would never do such a thing. Jim Crane's aversion to spending has made their sustained excellence all the more impressive.
But what if he took the governor off of Dana Brown? What if he didn't treat the CBT as a hard cap and actually assembled the best roster possible?
Houston's starting rotation has long been one of their strengths. Their 2018 rotation of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. was simply outrageous. What if Houston realized how weakened by injury and inexperience their 2023 rotation was and aggressively improved it this off-season?
Dream Astros starting rotation for the 2024 season
With Luis Garcia likely to miss most of the 2024 season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, is there still a path to a six-man rotation?
Let's look at the Astros dream (and still semi-realistic) rotation for 2024.
Ace: Justin Verlander
Yes, Justin Verlander is officially on the wrong side of 40. Yes, he has 18 years of big league experience on his right arm. But are you really going to bet against him?
The Astros re-acquiring Justin Verlander at the 2023 trade deadline was what pushed them over the edge to a division title. Had Houston given him any run support whatsoever in game 1 of the ALCS, he's likely their Game 1 World Series starter and padding an already impressive playoff resume.
While Verlander didn't re-create his 2022 Cy Young season, he went 13-8 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 2023. His strikeout totals are down, but no pitcher in the game makes in-game adjustments on the fly as seamlessly as JV. His ability to get double play balls in the ALDS against Minnesota after recording only eight all season show how adept JV is at finding ways to get outs.
There are still very few pitchers in the game more trusted in a big game than Verlander. Unless he absolutely falls off a cliff in 2024, he is again the Astros ace.