Hey guys! It’s Ari Alexander with the Astros in the offseason.
GM Meetings in Scottsdale had to wrap up a day early thanks to widespread...uhh...gastrointestinal distress, as was reported over there. In the meantime, GM Dana Brown spoke with assorted media present and revealed some nuggets about the Astros’ strategy this offseason.
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Meanwhile, the Astros continue to pick up individual awards after another winning season and an ALCS appearance. Mauricio Dubon won the AL Gold Glove for Utility fielder and is in New York City for the Gold Glove ceremony on Friday.
Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Chas McCormick, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Framber Valdez, Justin Verlander, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressly are all up for the All-MLB team.
Last season, four Astros made the first team (Altuve, Alvarez, Verlander, Valdez) and two Astros made the second team (Tucker, Pressly). Given the difficulties for non-closers to claim one of the two spots per team, it looks like Alvarez may have the best overall chance of placing on an All-MLB team for the Astros this year.
Backup catcher options
The Athletic reported this week that Martin Maldonado and the Astros have a mutual interest in a reunion, with Maldy comfortable taking a backseat to Yainer Diaz. MLB.com reported Maldonado will have 4-5 teams going after him.
In my opinion, the Astros should seriously pursue a reunion with Maldonado, given his knowledge of the pitching staff and status as a leader in the clubhouse. There is no clear upgrade on the free-agent catcher market for that role. Mitch Garver is a great hitter but is more regarded as a DH these days. Gary Sanchez had a resurgence, but there are questions about his defense (plus a higher price).
Mike Zunino, Curt Casali, Tucker Barnhart and Austin Hedges don’t present a clear upgrade over Maldonado. Ex-Mariner Tom Murphy falls in the Sanchez category of good offense, weak defense. Honestly, Maldy makes the most sense given the weakness of the market.
Where to find relievers
Dana Brown told reporters in Scottsdale there has been communication between the Astros and Octagon, Hector Neris’ representation. Neris declined his $8.5 million player option and should command a multi-year deal of $20 or more million guaranteed. Neris had a 1.71 ERA in 2023 and was excellent in high-leverage situations.
The Astros return this bullpen:
- Closer - Ryan Pressly
- 8th Inning - Bryan Abreu
- 7th Inning - OPEN
- 6th Inning - OPEN
- Fireman - OPEN
- Depth - Rafael Montero
- Lefty - Bennett Sousa
- Long Man - One of Jose Urquidy/Hunter Brown/J.P. France/etc.
Seth Martinez could step into the fireman role that Phil Maton held in 2023 (and Ryne Stanek held in 2022) after stranding all 17 inherited runners. Martinez had a 5.23 ERA in 2023, which was mostly high due to 1 bad outing vs. the World Champion Rangers. He had a 4.42 FIP and if you take out that one outing, his ERA would be 3.86.
If Rafael Montero can return somewhere closer to his 2022 self, the Astro can give him the #3 or #4 leverage role. Otherwise they’ll need to be in the market for a reliever like Jordan Hicks (they were interested at the trade deadline) or maybe take a look at an Adam Ottavino type veteran.
The starting rotation
Assuming health and no additions/subtractions, this is what the Astros starting rotation would look like on Opening Day:
- Justin Verlander
- Framber Valdez
- Cristian Javier
- Jose Urquidy
- Hunter Brown
- Depth: J.P. France, Brandon Bielak, Spencer Arrighetti (AAA).
Come to the trade deadline, once Houston gets Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers, Jr. back from injury, there should be adequate depth.
Dana Brown mentioned in Scottsdale they could look for a “No. 3 type starter.” Those types of pitchers do not come cheap, as the New York Post projected Lucas Giolito (4.88 ERA across three teams in 2022) to land somewhere between a $50-80 million deal.
Could the Astros’ famous pitching lab fix the ex-top prospect? Maybe, but the price doesn’t align with what Houston is projected to do given the tax. While he may not be a No. 3, perhaps ex-Met and Padre Seth Lugo could be a fit. Lugo moved back to starter in 2023 and had a 3.57 ERA in 26 starts. Lugo was previously a high-leverage reliever for the Mets and could flip to the bullpen in the postseason.