Tha Sports Junkies 101

Houston Astros: Off-Season Preview

Houston Astros Houtexusa / Via


After a disappointing end to the 2016 campaign, it is clear the Houston Astros want to do better than the 84-78 record they ended with (11 games behind the Texas Rangers).

The record isn’t the disappointing part (it’s actually an average record); it’s the amount of games behind the Rangers. 11 behind is tragic, considering the Astros have a pitcher who won the Cy Young last year, a continuously nominated MVP player and one of the youngest and strongest infields in baseball.

With some minor tweaking, the Astros can, and should, be considered a contending team. They actually could have made the Wild Card this year, if they had a more experienced rotation and the injury bug didn’t bite.

Before their most recent moves, I had “Acquiring a Catcher” and “Acquiring an outfielder” on this list. Then they went ahead and traded with the New York Yankees for Brian McCann, giving up right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge GuzmanThen they came to a four-year, $52 million deal with outfielder Josh Reddick, filling that hole they had in the outfield.

Even though the Astros already made some pretty big moves early, don’t expect them to stop. There are plenty more holes to fill in order to contend in that pesky AL West.


Top Priority: Acquire a First Baseman

Currently, Evan Gattis is the DH and Yulieski Gurriel is the first baseman. Gattis at DH is perfect, but Gurriel at first can change. If they upgrade at first, the Astros will most likely have the best offensive plus defensive combination.

There are some options the ‘stros can pursue to help them in that little push they need.

Not as likely, but still an option would be Edwin Encarnacion. With a fantastic postseason, Encarnacion is very valuable, but that comes at a price. Encarnacion’s inevitable contract should be worth upwards of $80 million over the course of the next three or four years. If the Astros are willing to break the bank, Encarnacion is the way to go.

If they’re not interested in breaking the bank, some potential options include Pedro Alvarez and Justin Morneau.

Last year, Alvarez hit 22 home runs in 337 at bats and had an OBP of .322. Though, technically, those numbers aren’t the greatest, Alvarez would be a solid everyday player to put in the line up. And he’ll be cheap.

Another option would be veteran Morneau. He hit .261 in 203 at bats. Though that may not seem overwhelming, of the 53 hits he had, 14 were doubles, 6 were home runs and 1 was a triple. Yes, the 35-year-old had a triple.

The numbers in the hit column may not be where they were earlier in his career, but the power is still there. He slugged at a .429 clip. He’ll be there to clear the bases when speedy Jose Altuve and Carlos Carrera are on base, and do what the 2015 Houston Astros couldn’t do.

There always is a third option: trade. They proved that a possibility when they traded for McCann. If they don’t like the talent at first base in the free agency, they can always trade for an available first baseman.

They can also take a usual route and trade for a third baseman and move Alex Bregman to first. Both trading options seem unlikely, but would be in the Astros best interest considering the talent available in free agency.

If I were to choose between the two, it would have to be Morneau. What he did last season for the Chicago White Sox gave the future of his career a glimmer of light. The spark he provided for a sluggish Sox offense will be valuable for the Astros.


Next: Acquire an A/B list starting pitcher

After pitching a decent start to his 2016 season, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Charlie Morton’s season was cut short after surgery was needed for his torn left hamstring. Morton started out, in 17.1 innings, with a 4.15 ERA before the injury. On November 16, he signed a two-year, $14 million contract with the Houston Astros.

That was a decent move by the ‘stros, in attempt to upgrade a questionable and unreliable rotation. There’s one potential deal I can see them pulling off, or trying extremely hard to pull off: Trading for Sonny Gray.

As division rivals with the Oakland Athletics, the Astros have seen plenty of Sonny Gray. But what helps the Astros (scouting him) could make it harder to pull off a deal. You just know Billy Beane is looking for some prospects that get on base. But losing a part of your future could not necessarily affect the Astros because their future is here. If they can pull off a deal that does not include Bregman, it would be a great move for Houston.

Another option, but less likely, a mega deal with the White Sox involving aces Chris Sale and/or Jose Quintana. It’s less likely because the White Sox would like to have Bregman included in the deal. If the Astros can work third baseman Todd Frazier into the deal, it could actually work. The only problem is, we’re still not 100 percent sure the Sox are ready to clean house. If they’re not, then they wouldn’t accept a trade including one of their aces and their home run and RBI leader.

If the Astros want to go a different route and sign a pitcher in free agency, a name to look at would be World Champion Jason Hammel.

Hammel, in 166.2 innings, put up a 3.83 ERA and had a record of 15-10. He’d be a nice third or fourth pitcher in their rotation and a nice pick up.

I’m not sure exactly how many teams are interested in Hammel, but the Astros should definitely pursue him. I actually see him and Houston coming to terms with a reasonable deal.


Then: Bullpen, Bullpen and more Bullpen

With the 2015 Kansas City Royals as example, a super bullpen is the way to win. Get a one or two run lead headed into the sixth, chalk it up as a win. That’s why relievers are considered, or should be at least, the most valuable piece in an organization.

The Astros had one of the worst bullpens in the league last year. So many one run games lost because of a blown set-up, or save. Luckily, relievers are available.

Some possible, but less likely options include Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, the top three relievers in the market right now.

Other relievers, B list relievers, can still get the job done for significantly less money than Chapman or Jansen. Some include Drew Storen, Travis Wood or Marc Rzepczynski.

All three relievers had decent seasons, and can positively contribute to a poor ‘pen. And the best part is, the Astros won’t have to pay more than $15 million for any one of those guys. No more than $30 million for all three.

Though signing all three will drastically improve the Astros bullpen, that’s unlikely. If the Astros were to sign one of these guys, I say they’d be more interested in World Champion Travis Wood.

The 29-year-old Southpaw, 30 in February, was converted from a starting pitcher to a long reliever (sometimes he made middle relief appearances). The switch didn’t seem to phase him at all.

He threw 61 innings holding a 2.95 ERA and a 4-0 record. In those 61 innings, he had an opponent batting average of .199, proving he can shut the door when called upon. Wood would cost the Astros no more than $10 million a year, which is a steal considering his talent.


If all goes to plan: Houston Astros 2017 25-Man Roster



Chris DevenskiMike Fiers  Ken GilesJason HammelWill HarrisJames HoytDallas KeuchelLance McCullersCollin McHughCharlie MortonTony SippTravis Wood


Brian McCannMax Stassi


Jose AltuveAlex BregmanCarlos CarreraYulieski GurrielJustin Morneau


Teoscar HernandezJake MarisnickJosh ReddickGeorge Springer


Evan Gattis


Marwin Gonzalez



The Houston Astros are a contending team, they just ran into a little bad luck that includes injuries, the dominate Texas Rangers, and the late hot streak the Baltimore Orioles went on to claim the last Wild Card spot. With minor tampering to this team, and upgrading in places that need it most, they can compete against the Rangers.

After signing Charlie Morton and Josh Reddick and trading for Brian McCann, the ‘stros are proving that they are ready and in it to win it.