Top 5 takeaways from Astros’ season-ending press conference

Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. and shortstop Carlos Correa celebrate their win against the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, in Houston. The Astros won 5-0, to win the ALCS series in game six. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (David J. Phillip, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros are bringing back Dusty Baker to manage the 2022 team. Brent Strom will not be back as the Astros pitching coach. Those are really the only two questions that have been answered this offseason.

Baker, owner Jim Crane and General Manger James Click spoke about some different wide-ranging Astros topics on Friday during their end-of-the-season press conference.

IS THE CARLOS CORREA PURSUIT REAL?

It is. The Astros said multiple times they will put “their best foot forward when it comes to Correa.” Correa was pleased Houston honored his wishes not to talk contract during the season and will now re-convene with Jim Crane as early as Saturday. Crane said he knows “where (Correa) is looking” when it comes to dollars and years, but would not say what those numbers were.

WILL VERLANDER RETURN?

The Astros have until Sunday to make their Qualifying Offer to Justin Verlander. The QO is worth $18.4 million and should be in line with what Verlander can expect to make on the open market for his age 39 season coming off Tommy John surgery. There is the possibility Verlander may not want to be in Houston at all, but the expectation is that a qualifying offer is made by Sunday.

WHAT ABOUT ZACK GREINKE?

Although Crane and co. didn’t talk about Greinke, all reporting, including that of Bob Nightengale of USA Today, has said Greinke is likely to move on. By the end of the season, Greinke turned into a 4th starter and was costing Houston a salary above $30 million dollars. If the Astros have any hope to re-sign Carlos Correa, they will let Greinke walk.

WHO REPLACES CORREA IF...YOU KNOW?

Jeremy Pena was brought up multiple times, included relatively unprompted by James Click when talking about the Astros pipeline. The 24-year old shortstop tore up Triple-A at the end of the season after coming off a broken wrist. Pena is perhaps best known for hitting a home run off Mets ace Jacob deGrom in Spring Training, and for a 3-homer game he had for the Sugar Land Skeeters, which included a walk-off home run.

Pena may be underrated and should make Top 100 prospect lists at the start of next season due to his elite defense and improved strength and bat. However, consider this - Pena is 24 years old at the start of 2022 going into his rookie season as a potential starting MLB shortstop. Carlos Correa is only 27 and has 7 MLB seasons and 79 postseason games under his belt.

WHAT ARE THE OFFSEASON FOCUSES?

According to Jim Crane, the team will focus on shortstop, pitching and “1-2 other guys.” I asked Click and Crane whether “1-2 other guys” meant center field, and Click answered the team was looking to upgrade everywhere but to some degree feel comfortable with their combination of Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick and Jose Siri.

As far as pitching goes, Houston’s rotation could start the season like this: Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Jake Odorizzi. Hunter Brown and Forrest Whitley could be in the mix for the rotation based off their spring training performance. When it comes to the bullpen, retaining Kendall Graveman is a possibility along with potentially upgrading left-handed relievers.


About the Author:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.