The Astros advanced to the American League Championship Series for the fourth consecutive year. But they have holes in the outfield with George Springer and Michael Brantley hitting free agency.
Houston has to fill some holes in its bullpen as well, but addressing its outfield situation remains the top job for general manager James Click, who is in his first offseason with the club. The Astros gave Springer and $18.9 million dollar qualifying offer, which he declined. That will free him up to sign with any team, including Houston.
The Astros outfield is almost empty right now. Springer, Josh Reddick along with Michael Brantley are all gone. The emergence of Kyle Tucker, who started the majority of games in left field (39) while Brantley was pushed to DH to replace the injured Yordan Alvarez, means Houston isn’t looking for three starting outfielders this winter only two.
With Alvarez, the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner who had surgery on both knees this past summer, set to return at DH in 2021 and Tucker locking down one of the outfield spots, the Astros’ clear biggest needs are the two other outfield positions. It’s unlikely they would be able to re-sign both Brantley and Springer, but signing one of them would help keep most of the team’s core together for another run at a World Series title.
The Astros saw the silver lining in the injuries of last season. It allowed the club to get a look at some of its younger arms. But losing closer Roberto Osuna and veteran relievers Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock to injuries — and subsequent free agency — means Houston has a depth issue in the bullpen.
The Astros return 2019 All-Star Ryan Pressly at the back end next year. Left-hander Brooks Raley, who had his $2 million option picked up, will return with youngsters Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, and Andre Scrubb. It’s expected that veteran Joe Smith will return after electing not to play in ’20, but Josh James will miss the start of the 2021 season following hip surgery. Austin Pruitt is coming off surgery as well after not pitching in ’20. And Cristian Javier, who pitched so well in relief in the postseason, is expected to be in the rotation to start the season.
Martin Maldonado carried most of the weight behind the plate in the regular season, and especially the playoffs, where his leadership was invaluable. Backup Dustin Garneau is a free agent, leaving Garrett Stubbs as the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. Do the Astros feel comfortable with Stubbs as Maldonado’s backup, or do they try to bring in another veteran to back up Maldonado?
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