In recent years, Houston has done an admirable job of replacing top-tier talent that many considered irreplaceable at the time. The likes of George Springer and Carlos Correa, dear to the hearts of Astros fans, made a bittersweet departure, yet the Astros found the right combination of players to fill those voids.
How long can that last? A recent Farm Systems rankings put the Astros at number 29, better than only the Angels, in terms of talent pool in the minor leagues. The draft picks handed over due to the signal-stealing scandal were part of that. So, if it was indeed the case that the well had run out of local talent, what if the Astros changed their strategy and started to be more aggressive in the free agent market?
In Houston there are many players who hit free agency themselves
As in the past few years, the Astros will see some turnover this season, although the degree will be determined by those who choose to pick options or bid high enough to get re-signed.
Justin Verlander will likely not implement half of the mutual option, which would bring him back to Houston for $25 million. The presumed winner of Cy Young is likely to get much more than that, whether with Houston on a new contract or elsewhere.
The Astros are preparing to lose one of their catchers, with Christian Vázquez’s lease term expiring after this season. Yuli Gurriel would also hit the market and potentially play for a team other than Houston for the first time if someone else made him a contract offer that he would accept.
Michael Brantley, who has missed most of this season through injury, will also see his time with the Astros come to an end if a new contract is not made. Pair these players who leave potential gaps in the roster, along with a strong free agent class this off-season, and what would the 2023 Houston Astros look like if they made some big moves?
Time for upgrades?
Let’s assume in these scenarios that the Astros are not executing deals to re-sign some of the previously mentioned players. With Vazquez gone, who do the Astros turn to at the catcher alongside Martin Maldonado? Sure, they have some young talent available, like Corey Lee and Weiner Diaz, but what if they want to move on?
The Astros were already part of the rumor mill for Chicago Cubs’ Wilson Contreras on this year’s trade deadline. He’s shaping up to be the best catcher available this season, so it might make sense for Houston to finally join him on their squad. If Gurriel goes elsewhere, a few potential players could fill his place, like 2020 AL MVP José Abreu.
Replacing Brantley as a decent defender and batsman, the Astros could pick their pick from a long list of defensive players, such as Andrew Benentende, Brandon Nemo and Mitch Hanniger, to name a few. However, the Astros can make some waves if you bring in some big names.
Huge spots that will shake things up
Let’s talk about the names that will be the focal point of the hot stove. Jeremy Peña has had a big boot to fill this season, and in his first full year in the short position, it was more than enough. But what if Carlos Correa canceled his contract with the twins, and the reunion was inevitable? Or what if Houston went further and had a chance to go after some of the best teams in the league, like Tria Turner?
There is no doubt that the Houston memorial in 2022 was one of the staff members, if not the best, in the entire game of baseball. If Verlander opts for a bigger payday, could the Astros try to get the new elite class to lead the rotation? Two names can cause a frenzy. Jacob Degrom and Carlos Rodon both have cancellation options available if they think they can make more money elsewhere.
Next, there is the final signature that some team will advance before 2023, which is Aaron Judge. The Yankees made the costly mistake of not striking a deal with him prior to this season, as he has gone on to create one of the best seasons ever. While there might be some lingering animosity on his end from the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, what if, a big deal, he buried that hatchet? What if he really wanted to stick with his former team and join up with the rivalry that has been a thorn in the New York team in recent seasons?
Those scenarios may, and in Judge’s case likely, be a far-fetched dream in some cases, but there’s no doubt the Astros will need to make some moves this winter if they are to keep the tournament window wide open. today.