Brand new Houston Astros manager Joe Espada will soon be undergoing a baptism by fire. The Winter Meetings are coming up soon, and they'll bring together all 30 MLB teams, all of whom have different objectives in the pursuit of getting their teams together for 2024. The Winter Meetings always mark the most exciting flurry of activity in any offseason, with all of the teams wheeling and dealing with each other and with free agents to cobble together the best lineups, rotations, bullpens, and benches of the new year. Here are the basics of the Astros' trip to the Winter Meetings this year.
What are the Winter Meetings?
The Winter Meetings are an annual conference attended by representatives from all 30 MLB teams — executives, managers, agents, as well as journalists — who do the most crucial of their offseason negotiations and signings over the course of four days. While they're not a deadline for trades or signings by any means, a lot of the league's most significant deals are expected get done during the meetings, so they usually operate as the climax of the offseason. Last year, the meetings didn't shake out very well for the Astros, who lost Justin Verlander to the Mets and failed to sign Willson Contreras. This year, the meetings will be held from Dec. 3 - 6 in Nashville, TN.
What could the Astros do at Winter Meetings?
Outside of whispers that the Astros might lose a franchise staple in Alex Bregman, Houston's lineup is in a pretty good place on the whole. Their attentions at Winter Meetings should/will be on pitching. Hector Neris declined his $8.5 million option with the team, and while that doesn't mean that the Astros won't be able to make a new deal with him, they also shouldn't sit on their hands and miss out on opportunities for other bullpen arms. Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton are also free agents, so the possible departure of three consistent relievers (preferably those who can work long into games if needed, given the starting rotation's troubles with injury in 2023) should have Houston on their toes with pitching.
Rule 5 draft
The Rule 5 draft, made up of minor leaguers with 4-5 years of service time, takes place during the Winter Meetings. Only teams without a full 40-man roster participate; as of writing, the Astros have two open spots after deciding to protect their No. 11 prospect Kenedy Corona from the draft by moving him to their 40-man roster.
MLB Draft lottery
The second MLB Draft lottery, wherein the 18 non-playoff teams will draw to determine draft order in 2024, will also take place during Winter Meetings. The Astros, of course, were a playoff team, so their place in next year's draft is already set at 28th.