HOUSTON -- At this time last year, the Astros had signed pitcher Charlie Morton and outfielder Josh Reddick and had traded for Brian McCann. They were only a few days away from completing a deal with designated hitter Carlos Beltran, which essentially was the final piece in their offseason puzzle.It's
HOUSTON -- At this time last year, the Astros had signed pitcher Charlie Morton and outfielder Josh Reddick and had traded for Brian McCann. They were only a few days away from completing a deal with designated hitter Carlos Beltran, which essentially was the final piece in their offseason puzzle.
It's been almost a month since the Astros -- bolstered by those additions -- won their first World Series and all is quiet in Union Station in terms of making offseason additions. The Astros aren't alone. There have been no major trades and all the big-name free agents are still on the market.
The Winter Meetings are two weeks away and the Hot Stove should fire up soon, but for now let's take some of your questions:
How does [Brad] Peacock fit in next year -- as a fifth starter, long reliever or something else? -- Joel K., Miami.
Following a breakthrough regular season and bang-up postseason, Peacock figures to play a huge role going forward in Houston. I anticipate he'll come into spring camp vying for a spot in a rotation that includes Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Morton and Collin McHugh. We all know how much the Astros' rotation was hit by injuries last season, so there are going to need more than five starters, and I think Peacock will be in the mix to start. If there's not a spot for him in the rotation, he carved out a successful niche as a long reliever.
Do you see a fit for Jake Marisnick on the 2018 Astros or is he likely to be moved for some bullpen help (or other needed gaps)? Seems like there are some teams that could use a player of his ilk roaming their center-field expanse. He's also going to start getting paid a little more and [Derek] Fisher and [Tony] Kemp seem to be options for the OF bench next year. -- Brian M., Houston.
As of now, I see a place for Marisnick on this team. That may change when his contract gets higher or another young player comes along, such as Fisher, but Marisnick made some huge strides at the plate last season and remains a terrific asset on defense. He's a key piece. That's not saying he can't be traded, but for now I see him as their fourth outfielder in 2018.
With the lack of a quality left-handed reliever this past season, do the Astros make it a priority to sign one from the free-agent market this winter? Or will they give Tony Sipp another chance, as he will make $6 million in 2018 in the last year of his contract? -- Cody P., Deer Park, Texas.
I think there is little doubt the Astros will acquire a left-handed relief pitcher considering Sipp hasn't been effective in two years. Some free agents to keep an eye on are Jake McGee, Mike Minor, Tony Watson and San Antonio native Boone Logan. Of course, the Astros could trade for a lefty as well, and it's no secret Padres lefty Brad Hand would be a good fit in Houston and a lot of other places. Left-handed relief pitching is among Houston's top offseason priorities in my opinion.
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[Jose] Altuve will likely command at least $20 million per year on the open market and will only make $12.5 million combined in the next two years. He's made no bones about how unhappy he is about his deal. Have the Astros made any inroads or had any conversations with [agent] Scott Boras about locking up their MVP, and why the heck not, if no? -- Alex B., Clarendon Hills, Ill.
I have never heard Altuve say he's not happy in his deal, though I'm sure he's aware of his value on the open market. Look, the Astros took a chance and signed Altuve to a long-term deal in the summer of 2013 and it paid off beautifully for them. Altuve wanted some security early in his career and is now an MVP playing for way below market value. He signed the deal and he'll play out the deal, if need be. I anticipate the Astros and Altuve will have discussions about an extension throughout the next year and beyond, if it doesn't get done before. I don't see there's any hurry at this point, but I do think both sides would prefer something before to get something done prior the 2019 season, which would be Altuve's last before free agency.
Other than looking for a solid closer, what other areas will Astros look to strengthen this off season? -- Mark D., New Braunfels, Texas.
I don't think the Astros will be looking for a closer. Yes, Ken Giles had a terrible postseason, but he was really good for much of the regular season. Can he improve? Yes, and the Astros will want him to. They made a huge deal to get him to Houston and he's here for the foreseeable future. That being said, the Astros need to upgrade the bullpen. Adding a free agent like Cubs closer Wade Davis, who received a qualifying offer, isn't out of the question, but I don't think the Astros are necessarily aiming to bring in a closer as much as they are just looking for a few more solid arms. Astros manager A.J. Hinch always says to give him enough arms and he'll figure it out.
With the rotation seemingly set with Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, and Peacock what do the Astros do with the young guys like [Joe] Musgrove and [Francis] Martes? Is it possible for them to start the year in Triple-A to be used as starters or are they likely to start the year in the bullpen? -- Aaron M. Houston.
As with most young pitchers, you try to keep them as starters as long as you can. That being said, Musgrove emerged as such a bullpen weapon and the rotation is deep without him. I certainly see him as a big league pitcher next year in some capacity. Martes is a different story. I could see him starting the season in the rotation at Triple-A because he has the stuff to dominate. He only has 86 2/3 innings of experience in his career above Double-A, so there's some development left.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.