WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- You have questions about the Astros, and we have answers. Opening Day is almost here, and the Astros' roster is all but set. Still, there are plenty of hot button topics in the days leading up to the start of the regular season, so let's
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- You have questions about the Astros, and we have answers. Opening Day is almost here, and the Astros' roster is all but set. Still, there are plenty of hot button topics in the days leading up to the start of the regular season, so let's take a few moments to answer some questions you posed on Twitter.
How high are your expectations for the Astros this year?
Like most people, I'm very high on the Astros. I think they have the deepest lineup in the Majors, an underrated and versatile bullpen and a rotation that can compete if everyone stays healthy. That's a big if. It's certainly a good enough rotation to get them to October, and we'll see what happens after that.
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That being said, I expect the Astros to win the American League West in a tight race with the Rangers and Mariners. Who knows what can happen in the playoffs? It depends on matchups and who's hot. Keep in mind, the Astros could also make a trade at some point to add a starting pitcher.
Is [Carlos] Correa playing third and [Alex] Bregman playing shortstop still on the table?
I don't think it was ever "on the table." Correa is the Astros' shortstop for the near future and Bregman, a shortstop in college, was moved to third so Correa could stay there. I don't see that changing anytime soon. Now, as the years progress, maybe the club thinks it is best positioned with Correa at third -- making the same transition Alexander Rodriguez did -- and Bregman at short, but I don't think we'll see it this year. Or anytime soon.
Will the Astros trade for a #1 pitcher before mid-July -- aka [Chris] Archer or a similar type player --- and not ]Jose] Quintana, who's a #3. And if so, who goes?
I do think the Astros will trade for a starting pitcher by the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Who that is depends on where the team is in the standings and how the rotation is holding up, both performance-wise and health-wise. I disagree with your assessment on Quintana as a "No. 3." Take a look at the numbers. The man regularly pitches 200 effective innings year in and year out and would be an impact addition to any rotation.
It's no secret the Astros struck out when they didn't trade for a starting pitcher at the Deadline last year -- and watched Cole Hamels go to the rival Rangers from the Phillies, so I don't expect the Astros to stand pat this time. The window to compete is now, and I think they'll try to make sure they have a strong rotation.
Will [Jose] Altuve get a new contract?
The Astros still have Altuve under contract for three more seasons -- 2017 and two option years. When the Astros signed Altuve to a four-year, $12.5 million extension in July 2013, it was a stroke of brilliance. He was a talented young player on the rise who has blossomed into a star, including a pair of AL batting titles.
Altuve is smart. He can look around the league and see lesser players making more money, which is probably why he hired agent Scott Boras last year. He has easily out-performed his deal. Still, the Astros probably aren't in a position to extend him yet. Dallas Keuchel will hit free agency before Altuve. I think the Astros will explore extension talks at some point, but with three years remaining on Altuve's contract, I don't see why they'd do that now.
How many wins are you projecting the Astros to have?
You want to put me on the spot, don't you? I typically don't like to predict wins because there are so many variables, but what the heck? Let's do it. I think the Astros will win 92 games. That should be enough to win the division. I think anything short of 87-88 victories would be a disappointment, and anything north of 95 would be a best-case scenario.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.