2021 was another great season for the Houston Astros, even if they fell short of the ultimate goal of a World Series Championship. Fortunately for Houston, they have the majority of their core intact as they head into the offseason. They have already addressed some of the questions that were surrounding the team this offseason. Earlier this month, the team picked up the option on first baseman Yuli Gurriel and extended manager Dusty Baker for one year. With the majority of their key pieces returning, they don’t have a lot of questions that need to be addressed. However, the questions the Astros are facing this offseason are pretty big issues.
Who Will Be the Shortstop in 2022?
The biggest question that Houston faces is who will be at shortstop in 2022. Carlos Correa is the team’s most prominent free agent this year. The team’s vocal leader and postseason legend isn’t likely to return to the team either. The 27-year old will always have his place among the all-time Astros because of his long list of clutch hits and postseason moments. However, barring a substantial increase in a contract offer, 2021 may have been Correa’s last year as the Astros’ shortstop.
Internally, the Astros have a few options for a potential replacement. Aledmys Diaz has been a good bench player over the past few seasons, but his primary position in his career is shortstop. He has over 2,380 innings at short in his major league career. At the minor league level, Jeremy Pena is an option, but he only played 37 games in 2021 before going down with a wrist injury. Pena did hit ten home runs in 30 Triple-A games this year, however.
There are shortstops on the open market as well who won’t demand the same money that Correa and others would. Andrelton Simmons and Jose Iglesias are cheap options who can be signed to a one year deal. These defensive wizards could hold the position down while a guy like Pena gets more at-bats in the minors.
Will the Astros Get Another Veteran Starter?
Two more of Houston’s prominent free agents are Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander. Verlander missed all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Greinke dealt with a few injuries down the stretch last season, but still led the team with 171 innings pitched. The Astros have some quality arms like Lance McCullers Jr. and Framber Valdez among others, but they all tired out towards the end of the postseason. A quality veteran or two who eats innings would bolster an already good rotation. Anthony DeSclafani and Marcus Stroman are options who are really good innings eaters who won’t cost as much as a Max Scherzer.
Will Houston Shore up the Bullpen?
The two most prominent relievers who are free agents are their midseason acquisitions Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia. Graveman was especially valuable, posting a 3.13 ERA in 23 innings after the trade. Houston has some young arms with good stuff, but they could also look to the free agent market. Every team is looking to shore up their bullpen and the Astros are no different. Michael Lorenzen and Alex Colome are options with good track records who are coming off down years and will likely come at a lower price.
One quick note with regards to these pitching questions is who will be coaching them. Pitching coach Brent Strom took over his duties in 2014. Strom retired at the end of the season, but ended his brief retirement to take the pitching coach job for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A major player for the pitching job is bullpen coach Josh Miller. Miller worked in the minors before taking the bullpen job in 2019. He’s worked with Valdez and Cristian Javier through their development.
The Astros have a strong core of position players and pitchers as they enter the 2021-22 offseason. There are some big names that may be leaving Houston however. This means there are some big questions that need to be answered and it will be interesting to see how this offseason plays out for the Astros.
Embed from Getty Images
Yuli Gurriel, Dusty Baker, Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Jeremy Pena, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Iglesias, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Anthony DeSclafani, Marcus Stroman, Max Scherzer, Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia, Michael Lorenzen, Alex Colome, Cristian Javier