Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Astros News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

3 thoughts as Astros await offseason moves

Bullpen, outfield help top Click's shopping list for Houston's roster
@brianmctaggart
December 4, 2020

HOUSTON -- With the non-tender deadline having passed and dozens of more free agents flooding the market, expect the Hot Stove to get a little more active in the coming weeks. And that’s despite the Winter Meetings, originally scheduled for next week, getting switched to a virtual format. As we

HOUSTON -- With the non-tender deadline having passed and dozens of more free agents flooding the market, expect the Hot Stove to get a little more active in the coming weeks. And that’s despite the Winter Meetings, originally scheduled for next week, getting switched to a virtual format.

As we await the Astros’ first big moves of the offseason, here are three things I’m thinking about:

1. Astros seek veteran bullpen help
They’ve lost closer Roberto Osuna and veterans Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock, all of whom are free agents and likely won’t be back. The good news for Houston is it appears veteran Joe Smith will return in 2021 after deciding not to play in '20, while several young relievers, led by Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor, who emerged in the coronavirus-shortened season will be back as well.

The Astros’ bullpen will also return Ryan Pressly, who slid into the closer’s role after Osuna got hurt, and lefty Brooks Raley, who was re-signed. Still, Houston needs veteran bullpen help and has no shortage of options available. Of the 59 players who were non-tendered Wednesday, 23 were right-handed relief pitchers. More options means more deals to be had.

Among the newly minted free agents is Archie Bradley, who was non-tendered by the Reds just three months after Cincinnati traded for him. He’s been one of the more consistent relievers in the National League in the past four seasons. Other intriguing relievers who hit the market Wednesday are Ryan Tepera, Hansel Robles, Matt Andriese and Matt Wisler. General manager James Click’s shopping list has gotten longer.

Of course, there’s reason to believe the Astros are seeking a closer as their big move in the bullpen. That would allow them to keep Pressly in the setup role in which he’s excelled previously. Liam Hendriks, Alex Colomé and Trevor Rosenthal are at the top end of the free-agent closer’s market, and any of them would really solidify Houston’s bullpen. The Astros can definitely contend in the American League again in 2021, and it starts with a lockdown bullpen.

2. Who will man Houston's outfield in 2021?
I've resigned myself to the fact outfielder George Springer won’t return to the Astros, which is no big revelation at this point. The Mets have money to spend and a need in center field. The Blue Jays are an intriguing young team that also has money and a need. It would be easy to say Springer would like to get away from Houston and the fallout of the sign-stealing scandal and play closer to where he grew up in the northeast, but Springer has never actually said either of those things.

For all we know, Springer’s preference may be to return to Houston, but money will rule the day and the Mets have more to spend than the Astros. That being said, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Houston re-signed Michael Brantley and found a replacement for Springer via free agency or trade. But no matter who the Astros decide to play center field next year -- if it’s not Springer -- it would be a step down from what Springer brings to the table.

The problem with re-signing Brantley and not Springer is the need for a center fielder would remain. Keeping Springer with Kyle Tucker playing one of the corners would give the Astros more options in finding another corner outfielder. Yes, Jackie Bradley Jr. is available as an option in center, but there are a lot more corner outfielders available, with Kyle Schwarber, Adam Duvall and Nomar Mazara hitting the market Wednesday after they were non-tendered.

3. Reddick will be remembered fondly by fans
One player we know won’t be coming back to the Astros is outfielder Josh Reddick, who took to Instagram on Wednesday to write a goodbye note to Houston fans. The Astros overpaid for Reddick when they signed him to a four-year, $52 million deal prior to the 2017 season, but his signing and the trade for catcher Brian McCann were the final pieces -- along with the in-season trade for Justin Verlander -- Houston needed to win the World Series. As manager A.J. Hinch said, they needed some adults in the room. It wound up being a solid move.

Reddick provided leadership and hustle, and he was always accountable when things weren’t going as planned. Astros fans, of course, will hold him in high regard forever for his contributions to the 2017 team, as well as his love for wrestling and -- regrettably -- wearing Speedos during champagne-soaked clinching celebrations. He was positive energy.

In 2017, Reddick batted .314 and posted a .847 OPS, a 130 OPS+, 13 homers and 82 RBIs. He disappeared in the playoffs (.413 OPS with one extra-base hit), but the Astros wouldn't have done the things they did that season without him. Reddick has regressed offensively in each of the past three years, so it will be interesting to see where he lands in '21 and how much he plays, as his time as an everyday player might be done. His time in Houston will be remembered fondly by Astros fans.

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