The Houston Astros had ruled baseball in the state of Texas for a long time, but their reign came to an end last night as the Rangers handily beat the Diamondbacks to secure their first World Series title. The Rangers played their brains out and sometimes a team gets hot at just the right time to make a playoff run and you just have to tip your cap, but it is hard to not think of 2023 as a lost opportunity for the Astros.
Had Houston been able to win just one home game in the ALCS, they would have been up against Arizona in the World Series and would have been heavy favorites to win it all again. The Astros absolutely dominated the Rangers in the regular season, but faltered at the worst possible time and had to watch Texas celebrate from their couches.
Now, heading into the offseason, Houston will have to take a hard look at whether they are going to be able to keep pace in an increasingly tough arms race in the AL West.
Houston risks falling behind in the AL West without a strong offseason
It is bad enough that the Astros had to watch an in-state rival that they had beaten at the wire for the division title win a title. However, the bigger issue is that the Astros are at a crossroads as a franchise that begins this offseason. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are about to enter their final years under contract, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez still don't have contract extensions, and Houston just looks like their competitive window could be closing as their core continues to age and leave.
Contrast that with their competition in the AL West. The Rangers obviously just won the World Series, but they are also very motivated as a franchise to add big names in free agency and the trade market with no end in sight in addition to having some homegrown studs on their roster like Josh Jung and Evan Carter. Then there are the upstart Mariners who have crazy young talents like Julio Rodriguez, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Jarred Kelenic as well as a GM who is more than willing to wheel and deal.
For Dana Brown, this offseason could prove to be a trial by fire. Going into his first full full offseason as Houston's GM, he is going to have to navigate a meddlesome owner and a constrained payroll to keep Houston competitive in 2024 and beyond. The Astros are still a really good baseball team and if Brown can hit the right notes this offseason, they should be in the thick of things yet again. However, if the front office falls short, Houston may find themselves falling behind in the AL West arms race and disappointed yet again next season.