The Astros Golden Era began in 2017 and hasn't looked back. After Justin Verlander and Yuli Gurriel moved on this offseason, only three players remain from the 2017 title team: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers Jr.
Altuve is currently on IL while Bregman remains a staple in the middle of the order. But is it possible the Astros would be well suited to move on from one of their three remaining players with two rings?
Yes, the Astros should trade Lance McCullers Jr.
The Astros currently have a five-man rotation in Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Hunter Brown. When McCullers returns from injury, Houston has a six-man rotation that is one of the best in baseball.
Therein lies the issue, since 2018, the first five words of the previous sentence have been synonymous with LMJ.
McCullers missed all of 2019, most of the 2021 playoffs through the almost the entire 2022 regular season and is out for an unknown amount of time this season.
The biggest issue with Lance is availability. When he plays, he pitches very, very well.
Over the last three seasons, Lance is 20-10 with a 3.16 ERA. But he's only made 25 starts or more twice in a season: 2018 and 2021. Both of those seasons resulted in either Tommy John or an extended stay on IL the following season.
The Astros have decisions to make on the contracts of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman after 2024. Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez are due an extension after 2025. Lance is eating $17,000,000 a year that could be better suited on an extension for one of those players.
Whereas his skills could have landed a huge star in return in years prior, injuries have greatly impacted a potential return for Lance.
Moving Lance would be a future-oriented move. They could move him to a team like Colorado that seems to make directionless moves like the signings of Kris Bryant and Jurickson Profar as the wind blows.
Maybe a team like Baltimore needs help for a playoff push to satiate a desperate fanbase while they remain hesitant to call up a prospect.
Lance could likely be had for an expiring contract that could help with a playoff push this season while allowing for the future flexibility in contracts extensions Houston desperately needs.
CJ Cron could fill a DH role down the line if Uncle Mike doesn't regain form. Maybe the Astros and Cubs swap McCullers for Marcus Stroman so the Cubs get a controllable starter and Houston obtains a durable and proven starter down the stretch. If the White Sox fall flat again, does Lance Lynn end up in Houston? Maybe Adam Frazier finally provides the end to the Mauricio Dubon experiment Astros fans have been clamoring for in a deal involving multiple prospects and players exchanged.
Lance will always be beloved in the city. His perfomance closing out Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS will always be legendary. But it's time for the Astros to move on from that contract. It will help them repeat this year and will help them extend their stars to keep their window of contention open even further.