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Astros aim: Bolstering the team's bullpen

Houston expected to add possibly two to relief corps
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' pursuit for relief pitching could heat up in the next few days, with general manager Jeff Luhnow saying Monday he's optimistic the club will be able to make a move during the Winter Meetings or shortly after.

Adding one or possibly two quality arms to the bullpen remains the top focus for Luhnow, who arrived at the at the Winter Meetings on Monday with several of his top front office executives. Luhnow told reporters the Astros have had four to five meetings with agents of players they're interested in and several conversations with other clubs regarding trades.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' pursuit for relief pitching could heat up in the next few days, with general manager Jeff Luhnow saying Monday he's optimistic the club will be able to make a move during the Winter Meetings or shortly after.

Adding one or possibly two quality arms to the bullpen remains the top focus for Luhnow, who arrived at the at the Winter Meetings on Monday with several of his top front office executives. Luhnow told reporters the Astros have had four to five meetings with agents of players they're interested in and several conversations with other clubs regarding trades.

"At this point, it's a lot of feeling each other out and trying to see where the market is going on some of the players we're interested in," Luhnow said. "I think it will be a productive three days. Even if we don't get a deal done while we're here, we're certainly going to put ourselves in a spot where we'll have an opportunity to potentially after.

Video: WS2017 Gm5: Harris gets Turner, Taylor holds at 3rd

"I'm optimistic we're going to do something to improve the club while we're here or shortly thereafter."

The Astros, who offered lefty reliever Mike Minor a contract before he signed with the Rangers, are looking to bolster a bullpen that manager A.J. Hinch patched together in the playoffs with starting pitchers. Ken Giles will return as closer, and Will Harris is back and has a solid track record. All-Star Chris Devenski will play a key role next year, but there's a lack of quality proven arms.

Two free agents to keep an eye on are right-hander Joe Smith and lefty Tony Watson. Smith, 33, had a 3.33 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Blue Jays and Indians last season. The 32-year-old Watson, who pitched against the Astros in the World Series, had a 3.38 ERA in 71 games between the Pirates and Dodgers.

Video: WS2017 Gm4: Watson induces groundout from Gattis

"There's a number of pitchers available through free agency and we're going to keep monitoring the market," Luhnow said. "I didn't think this year we'd be jumping out ahead of everybody and grabbing one of the first guys off the board. We're pretty much in on just about everybody that gets signed at one level or another. Sometimes there's another club that need him a little more."

Hot Stove Tracker

A report in The Athletic on Monday said the Astros were interested in free-agent starters Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, but they will command larger contracts than the Astros are willing to spend. Houston's rotation is deep, led by Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and World Series hero Charlie Morton, with Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock also in the mix.

If the Astros were to sign a starter, that would allow them to move a pitcher -- likely Peacock -- to the bullpen and offset their need for another reliever in free agency or trade.

"I think the reality is if we're going to improve our rotation, it's going to have to be somebody that's better than what we have, and we've got a pretty good rotation penciled out for next year," Luhnow said. "We're not going to be looking at fourth or fifth starters; we're probably looking at something north of that. There's not a big population but we'll probably touch base with maybe not all of them, but some of them."

The Athletic also mentioned Tampa Bay's Chris Archer as a possible trade target, but the Astros aren't likely to unload the type of prospects that would be needed to make such a deal.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Astros ink Federowicz, Ramsey to Minors pacts

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros signed catcher Tim Federowicz and right-handed pitcher Matt Ramsey to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training, the team announced Monday.

Fedorowicz, 30, spent last season in the Giants organization, including a 13-game stint in the big leagues. He spent most of his year at Triple-A Sacramento, hitting .300 with nine home runs, 43 RBIs and an .829 OPS in 77 games (73 at catcher). A right-handed hitter, he has played in the Majors for parts of six seasons, appearing in 119 games for the Dodgers (2011-14), Cubs (2016) and Giants (2017).

HOUSTON -- The Astros signed catcher Tim Federowicz and right-handed pitcher Matt Ramsey to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training, the team announced Monday.

Fedorowicz, 30, spent last season in the Giants organization, including a 13-game stint in the big leagues. He spent most of his year at Triple-A Sacramento, hitting .300 with nine home runs, 43 RBIs and an .829 OPS in 77 games (73 at catcher). A right-handed hitter, he has played in the Majors for parts of six seasons, appearing in 119 games for the Dodgers (2011-14), Cubs (2016) and Giants (2017).

Ramsey, 28, pitched at the Double-A and Triple-A levels of the Brewers system in 2017. He was a Southern League All-Star at Double-A Biloxi, posting a 3-3 record, a 3.65 ERA, 27 saves and 58 strikeouts in 48 games this past season. He was originally a Rays Draft pick in 2011 and has since spent time in the Tampa Bay (2012-14), Miami (2014-16) and Milwaukee (2017) organizations.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Tim Federowicz

Details revealed from Upton/Verlander nuptials

The offseason has been filled with nuptials from some of our favorite players: Mike Trout walked down the aisle on Saturday, Elvis Andrus' destination wedding in the Dominican Republic was just a few weeks ago and Edwin Encarnacion also say his "I Do's" recently. But, just after the Astros won the World Series, we saw one of the most anticipated weddings of the year: Justin Verlander exchanged vows with supermodel Kate Upton.

And details of their special day are now available for your viewing and reading pleasure.

Astros expected to tweak WS roster at Meetings

Adding quality lefty reliever highest on Luhnow's to-do list at annual gathering
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' quiet offseason, which has come of the heels on the club's scintillating run to the World Series championship, figures to kick into full gear when baseball's annual Winter Meetings get underway here Monday.

The Winter Meetings run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, with the front offices from all 30 teams, dozens of player agents and everyone else in baseball gathering in one location. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is scheduled to arrive on Monday.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' quiet offseason, which has come of the heels on the club's scintillating run to the World Series championship, figures to kick into full gear when baseball's annual Winter Meetings get underway here Monday.

The Winter Meetings run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, with the front offices from all 30 teams, dozens of player agents and everyone else in baseball gathering in one location. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow is scheduled to arrive on Monday.

"I do think at the Winter Meetings the pace is going to pick up a lot," Luhnow said. "I've always said you judge your offseason by where you are on Opening Day and not mid-December."

Luhnow's move to Houston made '11 memorable

The Astros, who have yet to make any additions to the roster, are in the market for relief pitching, though adding another starting pitcher or another bat isn't out of the question. The core of the club that won 101 games and beat the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series returns, so Houston figures to be in good shape for next season without making a significant move.

Still, the club would like to upgrade a bullpen that needs a quality left-handed reliever, as well as more help at the back end. Astros manager A.J. Hinch pieced his bullpen together in the playoffs with starting pitchers like Justin Verlander, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. playing a big role in relief.

Video: McTaggart on Astros' search for pitching, power bat

Closer Ken Giles, who struggled in the playoffs, returns, along with steady Will Harris and All-Star Chris Devenski. Joe Musgrove figures to continue to play a big role in the bullpen, but the Astros need more depth.

Hot Stove Tracker

Hinch will address the media at 4 p.m. CT on Tuesday, when he will undoubtedly talk about the team's World Series run and get questions about whether the Astros can repeat in 2018.

MLB.com will be onsite all week to bring you all the news from the Astros and Luhnow's media availability, currently scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday only.

Last week, Luhnow said the club was engaged in conversations with teams regarding trades and agents regarding players they are interested in signing, but said nothing was imminent. Things could move quicker this week.

"For us, it's probably additions to the bullpen that's probably the highest priority," Luhnow said. "There are quite a few good options out there so it's probably the most likely way we're going to go. Whether it's free agency or through trade, that's probably one area we'll end up making at least one move in."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Bid on a chance to meet Correa, win tickets

Proceeds will go to scholarship fund to honor baseball executive
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Here's your chance to meet Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa.

The Astros are auctioning off a meet and greet with Correa at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction with the winner receiving four field box tickets and the opportunity to watch batting practice from the field, where they will meet Correa. The auction supports the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Here's your chance to meet Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa.

The Astros are auctioning off a meet and greet with Correa at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction with the winner receiving four field box tickets and the opportunity to watch batting practice from the field, where they will meet Correa. The auction supports the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive.

This year's auction is live until 9 p.m. CT Thursday.

Winter Meetings charity auction details

Feeney died in April after more than 40 years with MLB, and the fund will support an annual scholarship to a female student in the sports management program at the University of San Francisco who exemplifies Feeney's spirit and character.

The event has raised more than $900,000 since its inception to aid various cancer causes.

Correa hit .315 with a .391 on-base percentage, 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 109 games for the Astros this year, despite missing two months of the regular season with a torn thumb ligament. In helping the Astros win the World Series, he hit .276 with two homers and five RBIs in the Fall Classic against the Dodgers. He hit five homers in this year's playoffs.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

McCullers helps rescue dogs find new homes

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- A black lab mix named Gunner sat in a wagon on the tarmac at Hobby Airport on Saturday morning, loving every ounce of attention he was getting. The dog -- content and unafraid -- had been shot twice a few months ago and lost the use of his hind legs.

"I think he knows that we're here to help him," said Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who along with his wife, Kara, has helped facilitate the transport of about 150 dogs and cats to California in recent weeks to new homes and new lives.

HOUSTON -- A black lab mix named Gunner sat in a wagon on the tarmac at Hobby Airport on Saturday morning, loving every ounce of attention he was getting. The dog -- content and unafraid -- had been shot twice a few months ago and lost the use of his hind legs.

"I think he knows that we're here to help him," said Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who along with his wife, Kara, has helped facilitate the transport of about 150 dogs and cats to California in recent weeks to new homes and new lives.

The McCullers, with the help of NFL referee John Hussey, on Saturday assisted with the transport of 21 dogs, including Gunner, onto a small plane to be shipped to their forever homes or rescue groups that will foster them until they can find a forever home.

"We're sending these dogs to well-equipped and spacious rescues," Lance said.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Here are more pics from @MctaggartErin of @LMcCullers43 and @karaleighhh helping send dogs to California. pic.twitter.com/skOEIT7uGM

Saturday's trip was the third such flight to California from Houston in recent weeks, and the first one The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation has been able to fund on its own. Cloud Nine Rescue Flights donated the jet, and McCullers' foundation covered the cost of fuel and maintenance, which was about $9,000.

"It's been pretty cool to just be able to connect with a lot of rescues in the area that have taken a lot of dogs from [Hurricane] Harvey and continued to take in dogs after that and get them out to places that have room for them, that have the quality of life they deserve to live," Lance said. "We're really excited to be able to get these dogs to California."

The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation creates resources for promotion of pet adoptions in the hope that no animals are euthanized. Last year, it began a partnership with Houston Pets Alive!, a pet rescue which assisted in Saturday's transport.

"This is something we're both very passionate about," Kara said. "It's an amazing thing to see, and we're so happy we can be a part of it and fully fund one of these transports, and we hope to continue to do this many times in the future."

Two months ago, California became the first state to pass legislation that requires pet stores to sell animals from shelters and rescue centers only.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Better pic of puppies born during Game 7 of World Series pic.twitter.com/VzmWv0SOzF

The animals that have been shipped to California in the last couple of weeks have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in August and dumped a record amount of rain on the Houston area as a tropical storm. The dogs were either homeless or brought to shelters because the owners could no longer take care of them.

"Obviously, when Harvey hits, a natural disaster hits like that, everything gets backed up," Lance said. "So being able to do this and get a large amount of dogs to a new home really helps."

Gunner was a priority on this flight. His spine was shattered by a buck shot, and by the time he was rescued, he had been dragging his hind legs so long they were almost worn to the bone. The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation helped pay for his medical expenses so he could rehab to the point where he was able to travel to California. He will be fitted with hind rollers so he can walk using his front legs.

"Stories like this and being able to meet people that have the same passion as us have kind of propelled us to where we are today," Lance said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr.

Luhnow's move to Houston made '11 memorable

General manager hired from St. Louis during Winter Meetings
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The news broke late on a Wednesday night at the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas. Jeff Luhnow, a 45-year-old executive with the Cardinals, was set to become the first general manager hired by the Astros' new ownership group led by Jim Crane.

The news broke when a former colleague of Luhnow let the cat out of the bag on Twitter, dragging reporters out of their beds and to their laptops and forcing the Astros to announce the hiring that night. Luhnow was introduced the next day in Houston, and six years later, he delivered the city its first World Series championship team.

HOUSTON -- The news broke late on a Wednesday night at the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas. Jeff Luhnow, a 45-year-old executive with the Cardinals, was set to become the first general manager hired by the Astros' new ownership group led by Jim Crane.

The news broke when a former colleague of Luhnow let the cat out of the bag on Twitter, dragging reporters out of their beds and to their laptops and forcing the Astros to announce the hiring that night. Luhnow was introduced the next day in Houston, and six years later, he delivered the city its first World Series championship team.

"It was a crazy time for me, because I was working hard on the Cardinals' activity," said Luhnow, who was St. Louis' vice president of player procurement.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, and they had spent much of the offseason negotiating with slugger Albert Pujols, who wound up signing with the Angels on the same day Luhnow was introduced in Houston as the Astros' GM. Luhnow was also helping the Cards prepare for the Rule 5 Draft, while simultaneously keeping in touch with Crane and team president George Postolos.

"I was getting more and more excited about the possibility of joining the Astros and trying to brush up and learn as much as I could about joining this organization," Luhnow said. "On the evening of [Dec. 7, 2011], it all came together. I haven't even reflected on that much recently, but we certainly have come a long a way from where we were then. I'm thrilled that I got an opportunity to be here for these last six years and shepherd this organization to the point we got this year."

Video: Luhnow on plans heading into Winter Meetings

Luhnow, of course, oversaw one of baseball's biggest rebuilding projects with the Astros. He traded away any player with value or a long-term contract, and he stockpiled prospects and Draft picks. After bottoming out at 111 losses in 2013, the Astros made the postseason in '15 and beat the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series this year.

Luhnow had been a vice president with the Cardinals since 2003, and he had overseen the Cards' amateur Draft since '05. Many of the players that contributed to St. Louis' '11 World Series title were drafted under Luhnow's watch, including Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Lance Lynn.

Luhnow's first transaction with the Astros came only hours after the news broke of his hiring when Houston acquired Marwin Gonzalez in a trade during the Rule 5 Draft the next day. In his first MLB Draft in 2012, Luhnow's first two picks were Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr., a pair of All-Stars in '17.

Video: Jeff Luhnow on anniversary of joining Astros as GM

Luhnow later drafted Alex Bregman and Derek Fisher, traded for Jake Marisnick, Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, Brad Peacock and Justin Verlander, signed Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel and Charlie Morton in free agency and acquired Collin McHugh and Will Harris off waivers.

Ed Wade, who had drafted Dallas Keuchel and George Springer, was fired as the Astros' GM in late November 2011, and David Gottfried was serving as Houston's interim GM before Luhnow took over.

"The Cardinals' suite was on the same floor as the Astros' suite," Luhnow said. "Literally, at 11 o'clock, I walked across the hall to a room with all the Astros people, many of whom I've known from earlier in my career. It was definitely a weird experience. I was excited for the change."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Luhnow addresses Keuchel, offseason pace

Astros GM not worried about pitcher's left foot injury
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday that Dallas Keuchel pitched with discomfort in his left foot during the postseason and was diagnosed with a mild foot sprain in his exit physical, but he denied an ESPN report that the left-hander suffered from plantar fasciitis during the final two months of the season.

Keuchel was spotted wearing a walking boot on his left foot while leaving a restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif., Saturday. When asked on a video posted by TMZ Sports how he injured the foot, Keuchel said while leaving the restaurant that he "slipped and fell, man ... in the parade" before getting into the passenger seat of a car and driving away.

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Wednesday that Dallas Keuchel pitched with discomfort in his left foot during the postseason and was diagnosed with a mild foot sprain in his exit physical, but he denied an ESPN report that the left-hander suffered from plantar fasciitis during the final two months of the season.

Keuchel was spotted wearing a walking boot on his left foot while leaving a restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif., Saturday. When asked on a video posted by TMZ Sports how he injured the foot, Keuchel said while leaving the restaurant that he "slipped and fell, man ... in the parade" before getting into the passenger seat of a car and driving away.

"All I know it was a minor left foot sprain, diagnosed during his exit physical," Luhnow said prior his appearance on the team's weekly radio show, Astroline. "I do know he had some discomfort, as a lot of our guys did, which is normal for a team in October."

Video: Keuchel wearing walking boot, has foot sprain

Luhnow said the injury isn't something that will hinder Keuchel into next season. He said he wasn't exactly sure when it started.

"You'd have to ask him," Luhnow said. "We did exit physicals with everybody after the season was over, and that's when he was diagnosed with the left foot sprain, and that's when the walking boot was recommended for him to use. That's the information I have."

Keuchel, 29, went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA for the Astros in the regular season and missed more than two months with a neck injury. He was named to the All-Star team after going 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in the first half of the season. He made five starts in the postseason and was 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA, including 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA in two World Series starts.

Meanwhile, Luhnow expressed disappointment that the Astros were out of the running for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani. Astros owner Jim Crane told MLB.com last week the team planned a "full-court press" to try to sign Ohtani, but the Astros woke up Monday out of the Ohtani sweepstakes.

"We participated to the extent that we were allowed to, and the outcome went a different direction than we were hoping," Luhnow said.

Hot Stove Tracker

Luhnow is set to leave for the Winter Meetings on Monday and remains confident the Astros will be able to add at least one pitcher to the bullpen through free agency or trade. The Astros haven't acquired any players since winning the World Series on Nov. 1, which is a big contrast to a year ago when they had already signed Charlie Morton, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran and traded for Brian McCann.

"I do think at the Winter Meetings the pace is going to pick up a lot, but we'll have to see," Luhnow said. "I've always said you judge your offseason by where you are on Opening Day and mid-December. We're having conversations with teams and agents for players that we want to engage with, but nothing right now we've been able to finish."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel

Altuve: SI honor is 'a dream come true'

Second baseman shares Sportsperson of the Year Award with Texans' J.J. Watt
MLB.com @feinsand

NEW YORK -- For one special night, Brooklyn was #HoustonStrong.

Jose Altuve, the Astros' All-Star second baseman and the winner of the American League Most Valuable Player Award, was honored along with J.J. Watt of the NFL's Texans as Sports Illustrated's 2017 Sportspersons of the Year, accepting the award Tuesday night at a star-studded event at Barclays Center. The two popular Houston athletes are also featured on the cover of this week's issue of SI.

NEW YORK -- For one special night, Brooklyn was #HoustonStrong.

Jose Altuve, the Astros' All-Star second baseman and the winner of the American League Most Valuable Player Award, was honored along with J.J. Watt of the NFL's Texans as Sports Illustrated's 2017 Sportspersons of the Year, accepting the award Tuesday night at a star-studded event at Barclays Center. The two popular Houston athletes are also featured on the cover of this week's issue of SI.

"It means a lot," Altuve said of the award. "It's a dream come true."

• Embiid reunites with Astros pals Altuve, Beltran

"For myself, personally, to share it with Jose and the Astros is great," Watt said. "I think it's also great to be able to share it with the 200,000 people who donated and everybody back in Houston. This award is bigger than me, it's bigger than Jose, it's bigger than both of us; it's Houston. It's this whole movement of people helping people. That's what's really special."

Among the other athletes honored at the event was Carlos Beltran, the Astros' recently retired designated hitter. Beltran, who hung up his spikes in November following a 20-year career, was named the winner of the 2017 Hope Award for his work raising money and creating awareness not only for the Houston-area victims of Hurricane Harvey, but also his native Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Tweet from @astros: .@JoseAltuve27 and @carlosbeltran15 looking dapper on the red carpet of tonight���s @SInow #Sportsperson of the Year Awards! pic.twitter.com/lT1gwBhFXx

"You don't want anyone to go through those types of situations, but I got to see people get together and gather to help as much as they could," Beltran said. "I always say that out of something negative, you can bring something positive. The positive part is that a lot of people got together and we were able to see the city of Houston recuperate."

Video: Beltran wins inaugural SI Hope Award

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was on hand to present Beltran's award.

"When people like Carlos Beltran take time off from winning a World Series -- which is hard enough -- to open their hearts like so many of the American people have done, it's just incredible for us," Cruz said. "Just to be here among athletes that use their voice and use their strength to help others … it's very important."

As Harvey approached Houston and the city braced itself for potential devastation, the Astros were on the West Coast, ultimately forced to play "home" games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

The Astros knew they would be coming home to a surreal scene, but the reality was even more distressing than many of them had imagined.

"We got to Houston, and we saw a lot of people that lost everything they had," Altuve said. "It wasn't easy for us, but we had to stay there and keep playing. We had to do everything we could to steal a smile from every single fan that was going through a tough time."

Video: Hinch optimistic following World Series title

Altuve, Beltran and the rest of the Astros did their part in the community, volunteering around town. But it was their play on the field that provided an emotional boost for the people of Houston.

"The fact that we were able to bring joy through the games to some of the fans going through tough times, that was a good feeling as a ballplayer to be able to do that," Beltran said.

The Astros knew a lengthy postseason run would further lift the spirits of the storm-ravaged city. Houston defeated the Red Sox in a four-game AL Division Series, then outlasted the Yankees in an epic seven-game AL Championship Series, winning the final two games at Minute Maid Park to stave off elimination and advance to the World Series for only the second time in franchise history.

Video: Altuve wins SI Sportsperson of the Year Award

As intense as the ALCS was, it paled in comparison to the World Series, which featured five games decided by two runs or fewer, including a pair of classic extra-inning contests in Games 2 and 5 before the Astros won their first championship with a decisive Game 7 victory.

"That cured a lot of people's hearts that were going through very tough times," Beltran said. "As a team, we battled throughout the year, but we showed as a team and a city that sometimes you go through ups and downs, but at the end of the day, if you stay together, you're going to be able to overcome a lot of things in life. Seeing the city stay together, they've really overcome a lot. I'm very proud of being able to do what we did for Houston."

Watt, who raised more than $37 million for hurricane relief after starting a fund with an initial goal of $200,000, was widely praised for his tireless work on behalf of Houston. But he believes the Astros' championship march did something entirely different for Houston, providing a much-needed distraction during the difficult aftermath of the hurricane.

Video: Must C: Top moments of Astros' 2017 title run

"It was unbelievable to watch as a fan, to be able to see how it affected the city," Watt said. "To be able to see a city going through such a tough time, [for people] to have a smile on their face because of what the Astros were doing, Jose and the Astros have done an unbelievable job, and they deserve every honor coming their way."

"Houston is a big, big sports city," Altuve said. "We knew that if we won the World Series, we would give them that smile and that hope in the middle of the disaster that was going on."

Watt, whose own season ended when he suffered a fractured left leg on Oct. 9, got to take part in the Astros' run himself, taking the field with the aid of crutches before Game 3 at Minute Maid Park.

"It was incredible; I've thrown out a couple first pitches there before, but nothing like a World Series game and nothing like that situation," Watt said. "I'm thankful to the fans who made an incredible atmosphere. I'm disappointed in myself for not getting it across the plate, so I'm hoping they invite me back so I can throw another one across the plate. And I'm disappointed in Dallas Keuchel for dropping the ball.

"Let's do this whole thing again next year, except I'll be playing and I'll be walking and I can throw 75 miles per hour across the plate. That would work."

Tweet from @JJWatt: Jose and your entire organization deserve every honor coming your way. The emotional lift that you were able to give this city during such a difficult time was truly incredible. You guys are a phenomenal representation of Houston Strong.

As memorable as that experience was for Watt, the defensive end recalled a different moment that stuck with him during the Fall Classic.

"More than ever, I saw what sports can do and how sports is so much bigger than just a game, just a win," Watt said. "I saw a photograph during the World Series of a family who was in their home, but they had no walls, stripped to the studs, they had no floor, just plywood. They had a TV somehow rigged up that they had plugged in and they were sitting on five-gallon buckets -- and they were cheering after a home run.

"You sit there and think, 'They don't have walls, they don't have floors, they don't have anything, but they're happy.' Why are they happy? Because Jose Altuve just hit a home run. That's unbelievable, the power that sports can bring to a community and lift their spirits. Even if it was just for that day, even if it was just for that hour, that's pretty incredible."

SI's Sportsperson of the Year Awards Show will be televised nationally for the first time, airing on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 8 and on Univision Deportes Network at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 9.

"We will remember 2017 as much for what athletes strove to achieve off the field as for what they achieved on it," said Chris Stone, editorial director of sports at Time Inc. "While J.J. and Jose represent two very different paths, they both led to the same destination: #HoustonStrong."

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve

'Pen upgrade is Astros' top Meetings priority

Luhnow, front office also in market for left fielder, starter
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- How does the best team in baseball get better? That's the challenge for Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff when baseball's annual Winter Meetings get underway Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 14.

The Astros went into the Winter Meetings a year ago having finished their offseason heavy lifting, but a shorter offseason this year on the heels of their first World Series championship means there's still work to be done. The club's biggest task is clear: Add relief pitching.

HOUSTON -- How does the best team in baseball get better? That's the challenge for Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff when baseball's annual Winter Meetings get underway Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 14.

The Astros went into the Winter Meetings a year ago having finished their offseason heavy lifting, but a shorter offseason this year on the heels of their first World Series championship means there's still work to be done. The club's biggest task is clear: Add relief pitching.

"We've got some guys at the top of our list that we've been checking in on," Luhnow said Friday. "Right now, the market is stalled and there's really nothing happening. We're going to be opportunistic. Last year was a little different for us. We targeted very specific players. We went out and were aggressive and got them early.

Hot Stove Tracker

"This year, the market is behaving differently and we're behaving differently as well. There's no rhyme or reason to it. We know what we need and we're going to be opportunistic. There's quite a few good options out there for the things we're looking for. Whether it happens early or late, something will happen before Spring Training."

While left-handed relief pitching appears to be the Astros' biggest need, Luhnow said upgrading the bullpen as a whole is the priority.

"It's really about finding the best upgrades to our pitching staff that we can find to give us the depth and quality that we need to get through a long season and hopefully another long postseason," Luhnow said. "We're not specifically focusing on one hand or another."

Video: Reid Ryan discusses Astros' offseason plans

Club needs

Bullpen
The way manager A.J. Hinch handled the bullpen in the postseason -- often using starters in relief -- is an indication of the trust the Astros have in their bullpen overall. Ken Giles will return as closer after a shaky postseason, along with steady Will Harris and Chris Devenski. Joe Musgrove could continue to be a bullpen weapon, as could converted starter Brad Peacock, but the Astros have a need for some more arms, especially left-handers.

Left field
Marwin Gonzalez started in left field during the postseason, but his strength is moving around and starting at different positions. The Astros have an opening for a left fielder who could play alongside George Springer and Josh Reddick in the outfield, with Jake Marisnick as a backup. Derek Fisher may be ready to fill that void, but expect the Astros to explore and see who's available on other teams or free agency.

Video: WS2017 Gm5: Fisher's sprint home leads to Astros' win

Starting pitching
Yes, the Astros have a wealth of starting pitching with Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh and Peacock all coming back. As we saw this past season, injuries can really take a toll, so having another solid starter wouldn't hurt. Not that the Astros are going to be in the market for any of the big free-agent names like Jake Arrieta, but adding another arm could allow them to move Peacock to the bullpen, too.

Who they can trade if necessary

RHP Michael Feliz
Feliz has shown spurts where he's been dominant, but he has yet to put it all together. He struggled to find consistency last year despite striking out 70 batters in 48 innings.

Video: HOU@SEA: Feliz fans Zunino to strike out the side

RHP Francis Martes
Martes flashed strikeout stuff in his Major League debut this past year, but he struggled to find the strike zone too often. Martes is barely 22 years old, but he might not be the untouchable prospect he was a year ago.

OF Fisher
Fisher struck out 54 times in 146 at-bats in his big league debut this past year coming off a stellar Triple-A season. His speed-power combination makes him attractive.

1B A.J. Reed
It's too late for the Astros to deal the slugger and get the kind of value they could have gotten two offseasons ago. Reed didn't show well in his big league debut in 2016, and he had only six big league at-bats this past year.

Video: HOU@BOS: Kemp charges in for a fantastic diving grab

IF/OF Tony Kemp
Kemp can do a lot of things well, but he might not have enough impact to crack the Astros' talented roster on a long-term basis. That makes him a trade chip.

Top prospects

Per MLBPipeline.com, the Astros' top prospects are outfielder Kyle Tucker, right-handers Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas, outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez, infielder Colin Moran, right-hander David Paulino and left-hander Cionel Perez. Tucker and Whitley are both 20, and they performed well at Double-A to end the season. Luhnow has said Whitley could be in the big leagues next year. Bukauskas, their first-round Draft pick in 2017, could be on a fast track to the big leagues.

Video: MSS@PEO: Callis discusses Tucker's future with Astros

Rule 5 Draft

There are 38 players on the Astros' 40-man roster, so there's space if the team wants to take a shot at a player in the Rule 5 Draft. Considering the depth of the roster, it would seem hard to fathom that they'd be able to carry a Rule 5 selection on their big league roster all season.

Big contracts they might unload

None, really. The Astros plan to keep their team intact for 2018 and make a run at another World Series championship.

Payroll summary

Astros owner Jim Crane has said repeatedly the club will spend money when it counts, and he's opened the wallet the past two years with the signings of Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Beltran and Reddick and the trades for Brian McCann and Verlander. The payroll figures to be in the $150 million range, which is still in the middle of the pack, but they'll have some big free-agent decisions to make after next season with Keuchel and Gonzalez.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

New DVDs capture all aspects of Astros' run

Options give fans great ways to relive Houston's path to glory
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros fans can relive each moment from the team's unforgettable run up to and through the World Series with Tuesday's release of "The 2017 World Series," the official documentary from Major League Baseball, and the "2017 World Series Collector's Edition: Houston Astros," an eight-disc complete game set on Blu-ray and DVD.

Produced by Shout! Factory and Major League Baseball, "The 2017 World Series" documentary is edited from hundreds of hours of original high-definition footage, plus game broadcasts and the MLB film and video archive. It features comprehensive highlights, exclusive access and interviews, delivering viewers directly to the ballparks. Bonus features include regular-season highlights, clinching moments, World Series highlights and the World Series parade, which brought the city together for an emotional celebration.

HOUSTON -- Astros fans can relive each moment from the team's unforgettable run up to and through the World Series with Tuesday's release of "The 2017 World Series," the official documentary from Major League Baseball, and the "2017 World Series Collector's Edition: Houston Astros," an eight-disc complete game set on Blu-ray and DVD.

Produced by Shout! Factory and Major League Baseball, "The 2017 World Series" documentary is edited from hundreds of hours of original high-definition footage, plus game broadcasts and the MLB film and video archive. It features comprehensive highlights, exclusive access and interviews, delivering viewers directly to the ballparks. Bonus features include regular-season highlights, clinching moments, World Series highlights and the World Series parade, which brought the city together for an emotional celebration.

Order the Blu-ray or DVD

The "2017 World Series Collector's Edition: Houston Astros" preserves every inning, every play and every gripping moment from the 2017 Fall Classic. Viewers will be able to relive all seven complete World Series games, as well as revel in the pennant-clinching American League Championship Series Game 7 over the Yankees at Minute Maid Park.

Each disc features a SleeveStats™ insert, which contains official stats, game trivia and more. Also included are four audio options, allowing viewers to watch the games while listening to either the television broadcast, Astros or Dodgers radio network announcers, or a Spanish-language version of the broadcasts.

The Astros, four years removed from losing 111 games at the bottom of the team's rebuilding project, scaled baseball's highest mountain when they won the World Series, beating the Dodgers in Game 7 on Nov. 1.

Winners of 101 games during the regular season, the Astros were led by American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jose Altuve and bolstered by the late-season acquisition of Justin Verlander. Meanwhile, homegrown talents Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Willie Mays World Series MVP Award winner George Springer took the Astros to new heights.

The offense smashed 27 home runs to tie the Major League record for homers hit by one team in a single postseason, including 15 homers in the World Series. And when they overcame the 104-win Dodgers in Game 7 of the Fall Classic to capture the first World Series championship, history was made.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros