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Astros quiet, but productive, at Winter Meetings

Club likely to add a starter and a big bat before offseason's end
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAS VEGAS -- Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow called Houston's work at the Winter Meetings productive, even though the club didn't make any transactions before leaving Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino early on Thursday.

The Astros weren't alone in their inactivity, as many teams didn't make significant moves, keeping with the recent trend of the free-agent market not picking up steam until January. Luhnow said the club had productive meetings with free agents and teams throughout the week and made a few offers.

LAS VEGAS -- Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow called Houston's work at the Winter Meetings productive, even though the club didn't make any transactions before leaving Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino early on Thursday.

The Astros weren't alone in their inactivity, as many teams didn't make significant moves, keeping with the recent trend of the free-agent market not picking up steam until January. Luhnow said the club had productive meetings with free agents and teams throughout the week and made a few offers.

• Hot Stove Tracker

It remains likely the Astros will make at least one impact move before the start of Spring Training in two months. Remember, their biggest move last offseason was a mid-January trade to acquire pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.

Video: Astros' offseason free agent targets include big bats

BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
1. SP: Charlie Morton is headed to the Rays, Lance McCullers Jr. is out for the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery and Dallas Keuchel remains a free agent, so the Astros could use a proven arm to join a rotation anchored by Justin Verlander and Cole. Collin McHugh will also be moved into the rotation next year, but another veteran to stick in the middle of the rotation is the goal.

Video: Hinch breaks down the Astros' rotation entering 2019

2. OF/DH: The Astros need to add a bat, and the DH gives them flexibility to add it just about anywhere other than the middle infield. They've already added Aledmys Diaz in a trade, and he'll play all over the infield and in left field. First baseman Yuli Gurriel will move around the infield, as well. Top prospect Kyle Tucker will get a shot in left field, but the team wants another bat, preferably from the left side.

• Stage set for Tucker to break out

Video: Tucker on his 2018 debut, strong season at Triple-A

3. C: Yes, they signed Robinson Chirinos last week to stabilize their catching situation, putting him alongside Max Stassi. If the Astros open the season with that duo, they'll be content. Maybe. The Astros would still like to add another catcher and, yes, J.T. Realmuto remains out there. There hasn't been much link between Realmuto and the Astros in recent weeks, but it would be hard to believe they don't have a strong interest.

Video: AJ Hinch discusses Astros adding Robinson Chirinos

RULE 5 DRAFT
The Astros lost two players in the Major League phase of this year's Rule 5 Draft. Miami selected right-handed pitcher Riley Ferrell in the first round and San Francisco took outfielder Drew Ferguson in the second round. In the Minor League phase, the Astros had one player selected: right-handed pitcher Ryan Thompson went to Tampa Bay. The Astros didn't select any players in the Major League phase but added defensive catcher Alejandro Flores from the Nationals organization in the Minor League phase.

GM'S BOTTOM LINE
"Fans need to have that perspective that it does feel like things are happening later and later in the offseason, and that's OK. It doesn't mean your team's not going to do anything. It might, but it doesn't necessarily mean that." -- Luhnow

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

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