4 free agents who could be fits for Astros

November 23rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The days following the Astros’ World Series championship win over the Phillies were certainly eventful, with general manager James Click and assistant GM Scott Powers departing the organization and manager Dusty Baker returning. Houston also promoted Bill Firkus and Charles Cook to assistant GM, joining with Andrew Ball in that role.

Astros owner Jim Crane told MLB.com in the days that followed that he would take his time to hire a new GM, saying the search could lead into January. That means Ball, Firkus and Cook, along with Crane, are guiding the front office in the offseason. With the Winter Meetings in San Diego less than two weeks away, here are some free agents who could fit in Houston to keep an eye on:

RHP Justin Verlander: The Mets reportedly met with Verlander via Zoom last week, which isn’t a surprise considering their need to add starting pitching and Verlander’s desire to test his market. Verlander is seeking a deal similar to the three-year, $130 million contract Max Scherzer signed a year ago, but the Astros have terrific starting-pitching depth and wouldn’t feel the need to make that kind of commitment on a position that’s already a strength.

1B José Abreu: The slugger is on Houston’s radar, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Abreu hit only 15 homers last season while posting an .824 OPS for the White Sox, and at 35 years old, he would likely get a short-term contract. The Astros remain interested in bringing back free agent first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who could play multiple positions if Abreu is signed.

LF Andrew Benintendi: With the Astros playing a wait-and-see approach with free-agent veteran left fielder Michael Brantley, who underwent right shoulder surgery in August, Benintendi, 28, could be a potential option in left. An All-Star in 2022, the lefty slashed .304/.373/.399 in 126 games with the Royals and Yankees before a right hand injury ended his season. He’s a better defender than Brantley, but he isn’t the power bat Houston may prefer.

C Willson Contreras: The Astros reportedly nearly acquired Contreras from the Cubs in July, so it only stands to reason they would have interest in him this offseason. There’s a rub. Houston has starting catcher Martín Maldonado returning and top catching prospect Korey Lee has nothing left to prove at Triple-A Sugar Land, so signing Contreras would alter a stable catching situation. Besides, he was given a qualifying offer, which means the team that signs him would forfeit Draft pick(s) and/or international bonus pool money for signing him.