What are the Houston Astros doing? Really, what are they doing? Falling short of another World Series run at the hands of the Texas Rangers with their seventh straight trip to the ALCS, the Astros have had a quiet offseason with hardly any sense of urgency to keep this dynasty alive.
As of right now, no definitive agreement has been made on the extension of All-Stars Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman. Adding insult to injury, no updated arms have been made on the starting pitching rotation. With Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. unable to pitch until June, Houston's rotation is in dire jeopardy. To add insult to injury, Justin Verlander will be 41 years of age along with most of the trust lost between Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier. You can at least hope for JP France and Hunter Brown to improve from their rookie seasons.
General Manager Dana Brown hasn't showcased much of his expected prowess of moves we envisioned him based on his time as a scout for the Atlanta Braves. Either he's been given not much power to spend via Jim Crane's frugal decisions with his money, or he is playing the long game. Regardless, the Houston Astros haven't made significant noise to remain relevant this offseason.
It's one thing to potentially win back-to-back rings. It's another to suffer a gut-wrenching affair losing two straight clinching home games to your in-state rival who inevitably become the actual World Series champions
Okay, Okay, The Astros Have Made Some Moves
Fine, enough ranting for a moment. Let's look at the moves Houston has made so far to add to the 2024 roster. To start the offseason on a high note, Brown didn't give in to Bagwell's recommendation of Brad Ausmus (thank God) and did an in-house hire instead, promoting bench coach Joe Espada to the manager position. Brown handled this decision with aplomb and Astros fans definitely agree. Given Espada's baseball coaching career, he's been deserving of a managerial role at the MLB level, and was going to get that position with or without dawning an Astros uniform. It's true, other teams in the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates were looking to scoop him away from us.
Nevertheless, Brown made a good decision here. If solid, Espada at 48 years old could be managing the Astros not just throughout the extension of the dynasty, but possibly into new eras.
Brown was also adamant in finding bullpen help and a backup catcher to Yainer Diaz, and he has achieved this so far. This month, the Astros have signed former Padres backstop Victor Caratini and acquired RHP Dylan Coleman in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. Not too shabby so far. I'm going to give credit to where credit is due. Brown has done exactly what he has said when it comes to roster moves.
Sorry, That's It
However, that is where the good things end. It's too bad Jim Crane doesn't know that the MLB doesn't have a salary cap. It's even worse that a billionaire living in an affordable city that is Houston, TX is too afraid of a luxury tax. Per his complacency, fans throughout this offseason have watched tons of potential Astros that could really help fill our gaping holes sign elsewhere.
Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn, well past their prime, but two surefire inning eaters, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Not that these hurlers were in Houstons' must need list, but the pitching rotation seriously needs pitchers with exceptional durability. The Cardinals didn't stop there. 2023 AL Cy Young finalist Sonny Gray also signed with St. Louis. Did this talk of signing a quality ace to play alongside our aging ace ever emerge in your mind, Dana?
There's more pitching to rant about. An arm the Astros considered acquiring from the Detroit Tigers in Eduardo Rodriguez to bolster their injury-riddled rotation last season ends up signing with the up and coming Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency. Another capable lefty and innings eater, Rodriguez at just 30 years old signs a 4-year deal worth $80 million with Arizona in an effort to maintain their hold in the National League since appearing in their first World Series appearance this season in over 20 years. Meanwhile the Astros, on the tail end of a dynasty, fail to even try to extend it.
It's More Than Just Pitching
Not only do the Astros have a pitching problem, but they also have an outfielder problem. In desperate need of outfielders given Michael Brantley's departure, Houston blindly watched the New York Yankees acquire Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox. Verdugo was lightly rumored to be a trade piece last season, but Houston didn't budge. While we're on the subject, Mitch Garver, who had a solid season with the Texas Rangers, signed with another division rival in the Seattle Mariners.
There goes another key piece Houston could have used as a solid bat in the lineup.
Here's something funny. Of all outfielders, Brown thinks that giving 2021 flash in the pan Jake Meyers another shot at being a starter in the lineup should do the trick. Since his freak accident shoulder injury in the 2021 American League Division Series, Meyers hasn't been the same player. Does Brown really think a player batting .227 with an OPS+ of 76 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 0.2 across two seasons worth of 164 games is the answer?
Rival Teams Are Making Moves
What have rival teams done to get better? Let's see. Along with acquiring Verdugo, the Yankees traded for three-time All-Star and MVP candidate at just 25 years old in Juan freaking Soto. Barring injury, imagine facing a lineup centered around sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Juan Soto. I'm not saying the Astros should have acquired Soto instead, but clearly there are teams that have a clear vision of getting better and strengthening their lineup.
Don't even get started on the Los Angeles Dodgers. What they have done so far this season is equivalent to playing Franchise on MLB the Show and clicking override on all lopsided trades with the CPU. Nearly two months into the offseason, the Dodgers not only acquired Tyler Glasnow and brought back former teammate Joe Kelly, but signed the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball in Shohei Ohtani.
Oh, but they weren't done there. They also snagged 5-Time NPB All-Star and three-time Japanese triple crown award in Yoshinobu Yamamoto. These overseas accolades may dictate Yamamoto's extensive time in the Japanese Baseball League. Jokes on you, this man is just 25 years old, an age most top prospects make their MLB debut. After multiple seasons of early playoff exits since getting beaten in the World Series by our 2017 Astros and the 2018 Red Sox (We don't count the 2020 World Series), the Dodgers are clearly out for blood. They want that elusive crown, and they'll do anything and everything to get it.
Again, no one should be saying Crane should throw his entire net worth of money to preserve this dynasty, but teams that the Astros have beaten over the years are making a valiant effort to get better before our very eyes. It would make perfect sense to respond accordingly. For him to blame the lack of action on money lost from a recent local Houston TV deal is pure comedy.
If nothing is done with a little over a month left of the offseason to go, Houston's roster will pretty much be the same coming into the 2024 season. With no aid to the pitching rotation or the struggling offense last season and a blatant disregard of not extending your offensive core who got you to the Fall Classic multiple seasons in a row in the first place sounds like a premature decision to shut down a resilient dynasty. Simply sitting around and hoping for something good to happen after failing to keep a .500 record at home and the playoffs last season is not going to cut it.
Aside from all this, yes, the Astros will still be good in 2024. There's no doubt about that. But it won't be an easy ride to the top of the standings. 2023 was the calm before the storm. Expect 2024 to be an all out war.
It's your funeral, Jim Crane.
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