The 2020 MLB season has finally come to a close, and now all 30 teams look towards 2021. Every team has various offseason needs, holes to fill or positions to strengthen. The Houston Astros are no different than the rest of the league. They have a variety of positions to strengthen: the outfield, bullpen, and bench depth in particular.
Outfield Among Astros Offseason Needs
It is very rare to see a team with their three starting outfielders all being free agents. This is the issue the Astros face, as George Springer, Michael Brantley, and Josh Reddick are all on the open market. Currently, there is very little experience among the Astros outfielders on the 40-man roster. The players with outfield experience on the roster are Kyle Tucker, Myles Straw, Chas McCormick, Garrett Stubbs, and Aledmys Diaz. Tucker is the only one with major experience, and 2020 was his first full season. McCormick has not played in the majors, Diaz is primarily an infielder, Stubbs has little experience and he is also primarily a catcher, and Straw hasn’t shown much with the bat in his short career. Yordan Alvarez is not on the roster currently due to injury, but he is an option, although he is more of a designated hitter.
Re-signing Springer is unlikely due to the fact that the Astros aren’t known to be big spenders in free agency. Brantley is entering his age-34 season, so he would not cost as much to re-sign, and he can still hit. Brantley hit over .300 for the third year in a row, and had 20 extra base hits in 46 games.
With Springer gone, Houston needs a center fielder. There are some relatively inexpensive center fielders who could be nice fits. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar are really solid players who could fill that void. Bradley is entering his age-31 season, and is a former Gold Glove award winner. He is a streaky hitter, but he is coming off a season, albeit a shortened one, where he posted a .283/.364/.450 slashline. Pillar is entering his age-32 season and is a solid all around player. He hit .288 with 21 extra base hits in this shortened season.
Veteran Bullpen Arms
With Houston waiving veterans like Roberto Osuna and Chris Devenski, some veteran bullpen arms are among the Astros offseason needs. The Astros had some breakout relievers such as Blake Taylor, Andre Scrubb, and Enoli Paredes, but there weren’t a lot of trustworthy arms after that. Ryan Pressly did a solid job filling in for Osuna at the closer role, but he was much better as a setup man in 2019. In his All-Star season of 2019, his ERA was 2.32. This past season it was 3.43, a full run higher. Houston could definitely get by with Pressly as closer, but there are plenty of closers in the free agent market who could push Pressly to his more comfortable setup role.
Some of the best closers of the past few years are on the market, including Alex Colome, for example. Colome very quietly has been an elite closer over the past five years. The righty has posted an ERA just over 2.30 and nailed down 138 saves in that span.
Bench depth was a big weakness of the 2020 Astros, who dealt with plenty of injuries. This lack of depth in part led to the Astros 29-31 record. The majority of the bench is young, inexperienced players like Abraham Toro, Straw, and Jack Mayfield. There are a number of veterans who can add to the bench to make the roster better, top to bottom.
Veterans like Kike Hernandez and Todd Frazier could fill the holes on the bench. Hernandez is a super utility player much like Marwin Gonzalez was a few years ago. Frazier is a corner infielder who could provide power off the bench, which is a big problem for the Astros current bench.
Houston waived back-up catcher Dustin Garneau, so another catcher could be among the Astros offseason needs. A possible option for the backup role is Kurt Suzuki. He’s entering his age-37 season, but he still is a solid hitter and can give Martin Maldonado some rest, and get some knocks off the bench. The veteran has hit over .264 in each of the past four seasons, and averages about 13 home runs over that span.
The Astros still have a great core of players, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff. However, there are holes to fill and positions to strengthen in this 2020/21 Astros offseason. Strengthening the roster can help the Astros get into the postseason for the fifth year in a row.
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