The Astros postseason run is over for 2023 and as their offseason gets underway there are big questions looming for next season.
Will their dominance continue or is the rest of the American League catching up to MLB’s top franchise since 2017? The likely is answer is yes this organization will be back and hungry again to be the last team standing.
“It’s disappointing because we didn’t execute enough and we didn’t reach our goals,” said Alex Bregman in a quiet Astros clubhouse a short time after the ALCS Game 7 loss. “We expect to be back and get to the World Series again.”
WILL DUSTY BAKER RETURN IN 2024 FOR A 5TH SEASON?
The Astros will return many of the key pieces to this club but front and center will be the future of manager Dusty Baker. Reports surfaced throughout MLB circles moments after the Astros loss that Baker will not be returning in 2024 for a fifth season at the helm. The news wouldn’t surprise very many and it is likely that Baker will retire. Baker didn’t comment on his status after the game.
“We have been spoiled here as far as winning and winning consistently,” Baker said after the game. " I’ve been here four years and we’ve been to two World Series and two AL Championship series so we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
" I have loved playing for Dusty,” Mauricio Dubon said after the loss and reflecting on his 1.5 years playing for Baker. " I’d run through a brick wall for him. He believed in me from day one when people doubted.”
If Baker opts for retirement, keep an eye on Bench coach Joe Espada who has been a target of clubs the past few offseason’s and is poised to be potentially be a replacement for Baker should he not return. Baker addressed that topic at the podium.
" You have to savor what we did here,” said Baker. " You have to think how we can get better and then I will re-evaluate my situation and my life so we will see. "
FREE AGENT DECISIONS LOOMING FOR 2024 AND BEYOND
General Manager Dana Brown will have big decisions to make as this offseason gets underway. Key names that will hit free agency include catcher Martin Maldonado. He’s aging now at 37 but still considered a valuable piece with the pitching staff who have trust in the veteran. Will the club opt to bring him back in the same role or one that will be reduced with the emergence this year of Yainer Diaz. This season Maldy hit below .200 which was a concern.
Michael Brantley could have played his last game in Houston Monday night. The 36 year old was the ultimate leader inside the clubhouse but was limited in playing time as he recovered from his shoulder injury most of the season before returning late in the season and in the postseason. When healthy he can produce but he made 12 million this season and if he returns to Houston it will be at a significantly lower salary.
“Like every season and offseason I’ll get with my family,” Brantley said after the game. " I’ll consult with them , see how I’m feeling and check out free agency and go from there.”
Also becoming free agents out of the bullpen will be Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek. Both are young and have been key arms out of the bullpen. Hector Neris’ future will be determined by the Astros who hold a club option on the righthander worth 8.5 million. That’s a big decision again for Brown to decide if Neris is a fit for 2024.