For most of the offseason, it has felt like the Houston Astros were treading water. It didn't seem like they were interested in making any splashes and were content enough with the roster they had. With every trade rumor that was getting floated, it felt as though Houston's chief competitors in the American League were going to be getting better and better this offseason.
Fortunately, that isn't exactly how things have played out so far. The Mariners made some moves, but they're probably going to be roughly the same sort of team given some departures and their unwillingness to spend all that much. The Rangers have been in a similar boat as they await word on their TV revenue situation. The Yankees did land Juan Soto which certainly stunk, but they also had some high profile misses in free agency.
With the addition of Josh Hader, Houston all of a sudden looks to be in great shape heading into spring training. There are some bullpen depth concerns to be sure, but adding the top reliever on the market was a huge win overall.
Unfortunately, it appears possible that the offseason could take another unfortunate turn as the Mariners appear to be interested in trading for Dylan Cease.
Dylan Cease going to the Mariners is nightmare fuel for the Astros
To be clear, there is no indication that any sort of Cease/Mariners deal is particularly close. Cease's trade market has had multiple teams involved this offseason only for those teams to fall to the wayside once the White Sox's wild asking price for him became apparent. The Mariners could just be doing their due diligence and the chatter could quickly dissipate once an impasse is reached.
Cease is also a bit of a weird fit for Seattle because what they really could use is another bat. The Mariners have plenty of young pitching and would almost certainly have to part with either Bryce Miller or Bryan Woo to get a Cease deal done. It's fair to wonder if the potential benefit of adding Cease to their rotation would be worth the cost.
That said, if Seattle were to add Cease, it could create a nightmare scenario for the Astros. The Mariners were right in the thick of the AL West race last year and if he were in good form, it would add to an area of their roster where the Mariners were already looking very strong. The picture in the division looks even worse if the Rangers end up bringing back Jordan Montgomery, who just helped them win the World Series.
This could all be for nothing as trade rumors very often fizzle out quickly after they surface. However, this one is concerning enough that Houston fans may want to get ready for another pitching battle in the AL West again in 2024.