Five questions at Astros this winter

HOUSTON – After falling to the World Series for the second time in three seasons, the Astros face a winter in which they could see the departure of one of the faces of the franchise, Puerto Rican Carlos Correa, and veteran starter Justin Verlander through of free agency. But that’s just the beginning of the uncertainty surrounding Houston’s squad this winter.

Here are five questions the Astros face this offseason:

1. Who will be shortstop in 2022?

With Correa now a free agent, it remains to be seen who will fill the vacancy at shortstop if the Puerto Rican doesn’t renew. The Astros have two options: Acquire an experienced shortstop or give Dominican prospect Jeremy Peña a chance.

With Houston looking to be a contender in the AL West next year, the team is likely to try to sign another free-market shortstop, including Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien. Any of those players would come in at a lower price than Correa, with Story and Semien as the leading candidates.

Astros owner Jim Crane said last weekend that he has not ruled out retaining Correa, but the latest five-year, $ 160 million offer – according to Houston’s KRIV-TV channel – probably won’t call the Correa’s attention.

And how about Peña? The No. 4 prospect in the organization had left wrist surgery in April and missed four months of the season, returning on August 10. Some qualify his MLB-ready defense and he hit the bat at Triple-A Sugar Land in September, hitting a .347 / .410 / .716 offensive line with nine homers and 18 RBIs in 24 games.

2. What is the plan for center field?

A year ago, the Astros wondered how they were going to fill the gap in the center field left when George Springer signed with the Blue Jays. Houston bet on the speedy Myles Straw, who progressed at the plate before he was sent to Cleveland in July in exchange for reliever Phil Maton.

Chas McCormick arrived to play in the position before suffering a wrist ailment that presented Jake Meyers with the opportunity. Both turned out to split time in the center field, with mixed results at the plate, as good defenders with some power. In 2022, they will compete for the position alongside the Dominican José Sirí.

Cuban Pedro León also emerges, the No. 2 prospect in the organization. Signed as an international free agent for $ 4 million in January, León played primarily shortstop in the minor leagues before being sent to center field. He broke his left little finger shortly after he moved up to Triple-A in July and missed two months. Houston sent him to the Arizona Fall League this year to make up for lost time, but he will likely start next year at Triple-A.

3. Will it be necessary to add an ace?

The simple answer is yes. The Astros were in trouble when right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. suffered a strained right forearm in ALDS Game 4, though Houston beat the Red Sox in the Championship Series and led the World Series to six games against the Braves. behind a rotation made up of the Dominican Framber Valdez, the Venezuelan Luis García and the Mexican José Urquidy.

McCullers will be recovered by the start of next year, Valdez, Garcia and Urquidy will be back – each now with Fall Classic experience. Dominican starter Cristian Javier, who served as a relief pitcher in the postseason, is shaping up to return to the rotation in the spring. They will also feature Jake Odorizzi after a bumpy first year in Houston.

But if the Astros are looking to be in contention, it would be better to have another pitcher to lead the starting pool. Whether it’s renewing with Verlander or exploring the free market (Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer), Houston prefers to add an arm to complement McCullers. If that had happened in the postseason, his matchup with Atlanta would have been better.

4. How will Brent Strom’s departure affect the pitching group?

One of the biggest reasons the Astros have been so successful on the mound in recent years was Strom, who announced last week that he will leave the club after eight seasons as the pitching coach.

Strom applied analytics well and used his vast experience to take pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton to the next level as pitchers like Will Harris and Collin McHugh turn their careers.

It also had Cy Young winners in Keuchel (2015) and Verlander (2019). Although pitching coach Josh Miller and assistant pitching coach Bill Murphy, who both worked under Strom, will guide the corps now, Strom’s impact was undeniable.

5. With money available, what will you invest it in?

Without the contracts of Verlander ($ 33 ​​million in 2021), Zack Greinke ($ 24.7 million) and Correa ($ 10 million) in the budget, the Astros will have money to invest in free agency. Crane pointed out last week that the club will once again have one of the largest payrolls in the majors in 2022.

“The budget will be one of the biggest in baseball,” said the owner.

According to Spotrac, Houston’s payroll of $ 221 million in 2020 (provided to 60 parties) exceeded the $ 208 million limit that forced them to pay the luxury tax. The budget of $ 206 million in 2021 was slightly below the limit of $ 210 million.

“We have always made the moves to compete and reinforce any aspect,” added Crane. “Our goal is to win championships, put the best team on the field every year and be competitive.”


We wish to thank the author of this write-up for this awesome material

Five questions at Astros this winter