5 questions facing the Astros this offseason

October 25th, 2023

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.

HOUSTON -- For the second consecutive offseason, the Astros will likely have major turnover at a leadership position with veteran manager Dusty Baker probably not returning in 2024. Last year, the club didn’t bring back general manager James Click after winning the World Series.

This year’s team fell one game shy of reaching the Fall Classic for a third year in a row, and the Astros should be poised to make another run for a championship in 2024 with much of their nucleus returning. Here are five questions facing the Astros as they head into the offseason:

1. Who will be the manager in 2024?

Baker, who led the Astros to two World Series appearances in four seasons, winning his only championship in 2022, is likely headed to retirement. The Astros will look to get younger in the managerial role in what will be an attractive job. Dana Brown, who was hired as GM just before Spring Training, will have a say in who’s in the manager’s chair, but owner Jim Crane and Jeff Bagwell, the team’s senior advisor to ownership and baseball operations, will oversee finding the next Astros skipper.

2. How will Brown reshape things as GM?

Brown was hired Jan. 26, so this will be his first offseason with Houston. When it comes to the 2024 roster, there aren’t many big decisions. The Astros have a handful of free agents but none of them were among the team’s top 10 in bWAR in 2023. The Astros probably will look to bolster their bullpen and will need to find a backup catcher to Yainer Diaz. Brown has also said he expects to have a handful of promotions in baseball operations. Assistant general manager Bill Firkus and farm director Sara Goodrum won’t return.

3. Which free agents could return?

There’s a chance the Astros don’t bring back any of their free agents. Michael Brantley won’t be back after missing most of this season following shoulder surgery, and Martín Maldonado’s time as Houston’s starting catcher is over. Diaz will take over as the team’s starter next year, though bringing back Maldonado as a backup can’t be ruled out. Hector Neris, who posted a 1.71 ERA in 71 games, has an $8.5 million player option for 2024, but he’ll likely get more in free agency. Considering his popularity in the Houston clubhouse, the Astros may try to bring him back. Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek are also free agents.

4. Which players will get contract extensions?

Brown, shortly after being hired, signed pitcher Cristian Javier to a contract extension, and said he would like to extend Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, both of whom are free agents after the 2024 season. Altuve, 33, has signed two extensions, including a five-year, $151 million deal in March 2018 that runs through '24. Altuve had a terrific season, despite missing 60 games with injuries, and one more extension would mean he likely ends his career in a Houston uniform. Bregman is also signed through '24, having inked a five-year, $100 million contract extension in March 2019. Kyle Tucker has two more years of team control, but an extension isn’t likely at this point.

5. Who will be the Astros’ starting center fielder in 2024?

This will be the fourth year in a row -- every year since George Springer signed with the Blue Jays after the 2020 season -- the Astros will head into the offseason with some uncertainty in center field. This year, Jake Meyers (87), Chas McCormick (51) and Mauricio Dubón (24) split the starts in center. Meyers’ playing time dwindled as the season progressed and he wasn’t on the ALCS roster. A new manager may prefer a more consistent presence in center. McCormick’s breakout season with the bat may give him the leg up, especially considering Dubón’s value comes in his ability to play multiple positions.