Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander with the Astros newsletter. It’s November and the Astros aren’t playing. It’s weird. Nobody is very used to this, since it hasn’t happened since 2020, so now instead of figuring out what the Astros need to do to take down another World Series title, we’re...looking ahead? Let’s break down what kind of changes could come to this team in 2024.
THE NEW MANAGER
Dusty Baker has retired after 26 years, five teams and one World Series Championship. Baker led the Astros to four ALCS appearances, two pennants and a title. Mission accomplished for the final stop of his Hall of Fame Career.
Now what’s next?
The Astros can go a few different ways with their managerial search, as different ways have worked for them the past two managers. Dusty Baker was an outside the box hire at the time, bringing in an old manager who had been out of the game. A.J. Hinch won 42% of his games as DBacks manager and was the Padres VP of Scouting before the Astros hired him. There are different ways to find the right guy.
Joe Espada, the Astros longtime bench coach is a name constantly brought up, as is former Astros catcher and close friend of Jeff Bagwell, Brad Ausmus. Ausmus was hit and miss in his 5 years as manager with the Tigers (four seasons, two winning seasons, one playoff appearance, zero playoff wins) and the Angels (one season, it went poorly). Ausmus recently coached for Team Israel, and was the bench coach for the Athletics in 2022.
Buck Showalter is one type of manager, Rodney Linares is another, Mark Kotsay (the A’s current manager) is a third. There are many ways the Astros can go, and they’ll be a desirable landing spot given their constant recent success and high level of talent.
THE FREE AGENTS
The Astros don’t have a ton of free agents, which is good, however many of their free agents are in one position - relief pitcher. Here’s the list.
LF Michael Brantley
C Martin Maldonado
RHP Hector Neris
RHP Ryne Stanek
RHP Phil Maton
The starting catcher is gone, but will be replaced by Yainer Diaz. The Astros only had Michael Brantley for the playoff run and very limited regular season at bats. The bullpen will be tough to replace given those three are roughly ranked 3, 4 and 6 in terms of leverage by the Astros. Unless the Astros can trust Rafael Montero to return to 2022 form, they will need to go out and get multiple relievers on the free agent market.
The Astros have a few big names going to arbitration this year.
Kyle Tucker - Arbitration 2, Free Agent after 2025 season
Framber Valdez - Arbitration 3, Free Agent after 2025 season (Super 2)
Chas McCormick - Arbitration 1, Free Agent after 2026 season
Jose Urquidy - Arbitration 2, Free Agent after 2025 season
Mauricio Dubon - Arbitration 2, Free Agent after 2026 season (Super 2)
Bryan Abreu - Arbitration 1, Free Agent after 2026 season
Luis Garcia - Arbitration 1, Free Agent after 2026 season
Tucker and Framber Valdez are projected to make more than $12 million by MLBTradeRumors.com’s Arbitration Projection.
MAKING SENSE OF DANA BROWN’S THOUGHTS
Dana Brown spoke with Randy McIlvoy last week at Minute Maid Park, answering some of the questions we’ve presented here. Brown sounded pretty definitive that Diaz is the future catcher, and that the Astros do not expect any of their three relievers back in the video above.
Some names to watch in the relief pitching market are Jordan Hicks, Joe Jimenez or even Aroldis Chapman. Japanese Leaguers Yuki Matsui and Yariel Rodriguez are intriguing options coming stateside for the first time this year.
Brown mentioned the Astros would like a backup catcher for Diaz. Maybe a Martin Maldonado reunion as a clear backup? Mitch Garver is a free agent, but has been more DH than catcher lately. The catcher market for 2024 is pretty thin.