3 free agents who could fill Astros' OF need
HOUSTON -- It's very likely the Astros will add a bat this offseason, in addition to their glaring need at catcher. The team has already traded for Aledmys Diaz as the supposed replacement for free agent Marwin Gonzalez, but who's going to start in the outfield alongside George Springer and Josh Reddick?
Other than the trade to acquire Diaz, it's been a quiet offseason for the Astros, though that figures to change considering baseball's Winter Meetings get underway next week in Las Vegas. Last year, the Astros left the Winter Meetings having signed free-agent relievers Hector Rondon and Joe Smith, though their biggest move -- the trade for Gerrit Cole -- was still a month away.
Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said last week he's been having conversations with multiple free agents and multiple teams but he doesn't feel like the Astros need to make a move to be competitive next year. While that's true, the club could certainly improve their chances of getting back to the World Series by adding a starting pitcher, a catcher and another bat in the outfield and/or at designated hitter.
Because of the DH and the fact Springer and Reddick can play multiple outfield spots, the Astros can be flexible in their shopping. They can bring aboard almost any outfielder and make the configuration work. Gonzalez had taken over as the starter in left field the last two seasons out of necessity and started in left in the postseason in 2017 and '18, but he's a free agent and likely won't be back.
The Astros had seven players start games in left field last season, which was their most of any position other than starting pitcher. Tony Kemp made the most starts in left behind Gonzalez and will be in the mix in the outfield again next year. Kyle Tucker, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Astros' top prospect, got a shot in July, but couldn't produce. Houston ranked 11th in production from left field last season with a .708 OPS.
Here are three outfielders on the free-agent market who would make sense for Houston:
• Andrew McCutchen: The 32-year-old had a solid second half with the Yankees, and even though he's not an MVP-caliber player anymore, he would fit well into Houston's lineup. He remains a steady defensive player, has eight consecutive years at least 20 homers and is as durable as they come. Last season, he hit .255/.368/.424 and posted a 120 wRC+ that was about the same as Cody Bellinger or Michael Conforto.
• Michael Brantley: Unlike McCutchen, Brantley has had trouble staying healthy, but he put together a solid '18 season, during which he had 631 plate appearances and hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 homers and made his second consecutive All-Star team. He's a left-handed bat, which would fill a need for the Astros.
• A.J. Pollock: Pollock is a Gold Glove center fielder whose signing could require the Astros to move Springer back to right field -- he played right when he came up to the Majors in 2014 because William Fowler was in center -- and shift Reddick to left field. Pollock has had injury problems, but last year he hit .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers in 113 games and can be an impact player.