Astros 2021-2022 Offseason Guide- Reloading

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

The Astros season is over, and they once again played in the World Series. After losing the series in six games there seems to be a sense of doom over this franchise. Many pundits are saying the championship runs are over and take glee in the fact that the only championship in this era is the one they discredit. I am not going to debate the worthiness on the 2017 World Series championship with anyone. As I stated on Twitter here is my stand on the issue.


It never ceases to amaze me how uninformed and completely gaslighted HOUSTON ASTROS fans are about 2017. I am not playing the media’s game. They can continue to lie to you- not me.


I’m not debating 2017 with any of you all. If you choose to believe that that Astros were unique in their cheating that year and that our trophy is illegitimate, that is on you for believing lies.


What is clear as we progress from the team in 2021 to the future is that this offseason is on of TRANSITION. Several big-name veterans will be leaving. How the team replaces them will determine if the championship window stays open and for how long. This essay will get you ready for the offseason.


Be careful, however, the right answers for the next five years may not be the answers you want to hear for 2021-2022.


(Note: this ends up being a very long and thorough breakdown of MANY elements of the Astros post season. Take your time with the content here. Ask me questions here on the site or on Twitter @LarryTheGM. When things do happen this will be updated.)


Many of you are immediately going to want to know will the Astros re-sign Carlos Correa; and if not, what will the team do to replace him. I think two things are possible on the Correa front:

  1. The Astros sign him to a contract by 11/7 that will blow away every paradigm and principle the franchise has had with free agents.

  2. The Astros wait to see what the market is for Correa and decide then. This might not happen until February or later if there is a lock out.

I will eventually get to what I think the Astros should offer Correa but signing free agents is only one step in several moves that will happen this off-season.


Let’s review the MLB off-season calendar. (These will link to the section of the article that addresses that period of time. in the off-season.

Tentatively- all free agent signings and all of the following may be impacted by the CBA status

  • Owners will lock out players if there is no CBA agreement or extension – 12/2

  • Winter Meetings – 12/6-12/9

  • Rule 5 draft – 12/9

  • Arbitration numbers exchanged – 1/14

  • Arbitration Hearings – 2/1-2/20

  • Pitchers and catchers report - ~2/14

  • First Day spring training games – 2/26

  • Opening Day – 3/31

As we work through each step of the calendar, we will also pause to assess the financial situation of the league and the Astros and their payroll.


Major League Players became Free Agents – 11/3

The Astros have seven players that became Free Agents on 11/3. (This did not happen two minutes after the end of game 6 on 11/2. Someone might want to tell Boras cap man Cole.)

I believe the Astros will want to re-sign Correa and Graveman the most. I do not expect they will go after the others very hard. I suspect they are trying to work something out with Correa right now.








Teams have exclusive rights to negotiate with their former players that are FA – 11/3-11/7


My Twitter feed @LarryTheGM will often preview content that is being worked on here. I tweeted this today


Per Cot's


"During a five-day “Quiet Period” after the World Series ends, a free agent’s former club retains exclusive negotiating rights with him.


So @Astros, should we expect to hear today or tomorrow about you signing Correa to a $280M/ 10yr deal?


Before I move forward, I want to quote my position on the Correa contract in March. I revisited this also on Twitter this week.




The date on that tweet on the right was March 27, 2021. I was hyper focused on that a deal had to be done then because I truly believed if not then I did not believe it ever would get done.


This offer was far more fair than what either side was proposing in March. Almost no one liked this tweet then. Why? Some said it was too much and others said it was not enough. That means that was the right deal at that time when there were still questions on whether Correa could stay healthy all year. He did. He also produced 5.8 WAR. Astros fans demanded Crane “pay the man” all season.


Now what? The Astros have an exclusive opportunity to work out a deal with Correa until Sunday. Will they?


Later in the day on 11/5/21, the Astros announced they have giving Dusty Baker a one-year extension as manager. During that press conference Jim Crane said the following things (per Brian McTaggart on Twitter)


Crane: “Everybody knows what we need. We need a shortstop, we need some pitching and maybe another player or two.”

Crane on Correa: “We’re going to give him something we think fits into our formula and hope it fits into his formula.”


What fits the Astros formula? The answer will be laid out in more detail as we work through the offseason calendar. Here is what I think are three realistic scenarios for a Correa deal now.

In my view Correa has gone from a $196M (7*28) to $208M (8*26) deal in March to a $245M to $295M deal today. The Yankees, also desperate for a productive and good fielding SS might offer him >$320M if the Astros do not reach a deal by Sunday. If Correa REALLY wants to stay, he can choose which of these 3 deals he wants. I also include an opt out after the 2025 season. Correa will just have played his 30-yr old season. Altuve and Bregman will have fulfilled their contracts and the Astros may start a rebuild by this point. Correa may want out and my contract would give him that flexibility.


This is what the Astros should be doing RIGHT NOW. Below, I will give you all my final offer that I would give Correa once he has competing offers from other teams setting his true value. It may be best to make that offer today.


I might offer Gravemen a contract during this period as well or perhaps wait to see how the market develops.


Twitter Asked for my take on the Correa situation and here it is.


Team Deadline to make qualifying offers- QOs – 11/7


The exclusive negotiating period somewhat puts the cart before the horse in a sound off-season plan, so let’s take a step back and get things more in order. By Sunday, the Astros will have to decide, of the players that are leaving as free agents, who they want to offer the Qualifying Offer ($18.4M for 2022). There is draft pick compensation if a player declines the QO and then signs with another team. I would offer Correa and Verlander the QO and not the others.


11/7/21 Note- The Astros DID offer the QO to Correa and Verlander- No surprise


Since the Astros stayed under the CBT (barely) in 2021 and since they are not a team that receives revenue sharing if Correa or Verlander end up signing somewhere else the Astros will receive a compensatory pick that will come after Competitive Balance Round B (usually around picks 75-80,). These rules are covered in more detail here. and how they would apply to other teams.


Also from the MLB.com article if the Astros SIGN a player from another team that has received a QO (I think they might), they will lose their second-highest selection in the following year's Draft, as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool for the upcoming signing period. If they sign two such players (doubtful), they will also forfeit their third-highest remaining pick and an additional $500,000.


MLBTradeRumors.com has an article that is tracking all of the QOs. They also list out the ramifications for each team signing a QO player here.


Deadline to reject/accept QOs – 11/17


Neither player will accept this offer. The Astros will be rewarded with draft pick compensation when/ if either player is signed by another team.


11/15/21 Note- Correa did reject the QO as expected


11/17/21 Note- After the announcement and minutes before the deadline it was announced Verlander signed a 1-yr $25M contract with a second year player option. To me this means the Astros know JV is in way better shape and ready to go than anyone else knows.


11/13/21 Note- There are many out there that expect the Astros to sign Verlander and/or Verlander to accept the QO. As far as the later as I said, I think JV accepting the QO is an EXTREMELY low probability. Here is my logic. Let's go through the two scenarios and what actions JV would take right now for each.


  • JV just hoping Astros offer him a QO to accept knowing he is done but can collect a paycheck for 2022

  • Two groups understand Verlander's health and current capability

  • JV and his medical team

  • The Astros Medical and training staff

  • The Astros moved lightning fast to get JV signed after he declined the QO. What does that tell you?

  • If JV WAS done the Astros would know it and JV would NOT be throwing right now

  • Likelihood less than 3%

  • JV going to accept QO in order to have a prove it year to get a bigger contract for 2023+

  • If JV and his agent KNOW his plan is to accept the QO, there would be no reason for JV to have the showcase on 11/8/21 that he did. There would be NO REASON to risk an injury throwing 94-97 mph.

  • If they were unsure whether he should they would do the showcase and assess the interest. THIS might be what happened.

  • Verlander is a freak physically but he will be in his age 39 year in 2022. Father time is undefeated.

  • Can Verlander pitch so well in 2022 that he dramatically increases the contract he gets now? I simply don't believe so.

  • Part of that is I think people will be stunned that JV gets a 3-year deal with greater than $25M AAV (probably vesting options.)

  • Likelihood JV accepts QO- about 30%

  • JV going to turn down QO

  • What would Verlander do if he knew he was going to turn down the QO and thought he was already in good shape and ready to pitch? He would hold a showcase to show EVERYONE how good he is- CHECK

  • What would the Astros be doing if they knew how ready Verlander is to pitch and how good he has been looking at private workouts?

  • They would be talking about signing JV even if he declines the QO

  • Per Mark Berman on Twitter ”He looked good.He’s in shape.He was throwing well..We gave him the qualifying offer..If he turns that down..We haven’t ruled out trying to sign him to a deal beyond the qualifying offer”- CHECK

  • Likelihood JV rejects QO- 67%

  • How likely is JV to accept a two to three year contract with the Astros?

  • This is anyone's guess really

  • Multiple reports indicate 15-20 teams were at his showcase workout including the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Angels.

  • I just don't think it is likely Verlander returns- I love it when I am wrong and it is good for the Astros. I thought other teams would outbid the Astros. Whether it is due to the speed in which they moved to get the deal done or the willingness to go above what the consensus market was believed to be, the Astros got it done and done quickly. Credit Jim Crane.

Assess the financial situation of the league and the Astros and the Payroll


This could have been the first thing on the offseason list. It actually should be a year-round process. I decided to get the big news item first and then we will cover the rest of the steps in a more logical order.


Before any MLB team dives deeply into free agency, they are going to want to see the CBA settled to understand the financial framework going forward. Individual owners are going to want to thoroughly understand what the financial (and COVID) situation for their team is too.


Let’s discuss the health of the sport and the Astros. Below are two graphs that show the total attendance and the attendance per games of both the league and the Astros.

Total attendance had peaked over the past 10-15 years BEFORE COVID. Some of this is due to more fan friendly stadiums with smaller capacities. Some may be due to the growth of RSN (regional sports networks) showing all games. Some may be due to high ticket prices. Some may be due to competitiveness issues and having several teams tanking every year.


After the zero-attendance year in 2020, almost all franchises dealt with COVID related attendance restrictions in 2021. Attendance in 2021 was down league wide 34% vs. 2019. It is a terrible time for both sides to be setting the financial framework of their relationship in the CBA. I would not be surprised if both sides agreed to an extension with the changes they can agree upon for 2022.


In the attached data per Baseball Reference (http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/pVBNX), the Astros were:



  • Sixth in attendance

  • Third in Payroll

  • Twentieth oldest in batter average age

  • Fourteenth oldest in pitcher average age

In general, the Astros are a high payroll team that faced a similar decline in attendance as the rest of the league. They are an above average team that will have a few of its older players reaching free agency this year and in the next few years to come.





From a 2021 Payroll perspective, the Astros were able to get just under the salary cap per this data from Spotrac.

















With the loss of the 7 Free Agents, the Astros will be also shedding $84.4M in AAV payroll. Before resigning Correa or any other Free Agents what will the 2022 Payroll situation will be?


Using the data from the Roster Resource page on Fangraphs.com, here is the Astros payroll status for 2022.


The players under contract include


Team Deadline to tender arbitration – 12/2 – if a player is not tendered or does not agree to a contract, they become a FA


The players eligible for arbitration include the following.

Players can reach a deal prior to this decision date or anytime before their arbitration hearing. For now, I am assuming these players are tendered and the arbitration settles at the numbers the Roster Resource projects. Montero is probably the least likely to get tendered.


Also on the offseason calendar are the final two steps related to arbitration.


Arbitration numbers exchanged – 1/14


Arbitration Hearings – 2/1-2/20


Lastly, the CBT calculations for the Astros include

  • Paying 15-20 players that are not yet eligible for arbitration $550-650K each. This adds ~$9-10MM to the payroll for the CBT calculation.

  • Allocations for “Estimated player benefits to be paid” $16MM

  • Allocations for “Estimated salaries for 40-man roster players in minor leagues” - $2.25MM.

Therefore, before a single free agent is signed, the Astros will likely be responsible for ~$159M in CBT payroll.


Minor League Free Agents – 11/8


Before we dive into the Major League free agents, let's revisit the lesser appreciated minor league free agency process and its impact on the Astros minor league system.


MLB RULE 55: An unsigned minor league player is automatically declared a free-agent at 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series (the deadline is October 15th if the World Series is canceled) if the player has spent all or any part of at least seven separate seasons on a minor league roster (including all or parts of any season spent on Optional Assignment to the minors and/or on a minor league Injured List) and/or if the player has been previously released or non-tendered in his career and his present contract (known as a "second contract" even if it's his third or fourth minor league contract) has expired.


Here is my list of these players who I believe will become Free Agents. Some of them may choose to resign a Minor League Free Agent contract with the Astros in 2022.

  • Miguelangel Sierra

  • Riley Ferrell

  • Jon Olczak

  • Felipe Tejada

11/9/21 Note- Baseball America posted their list of minor league FA today. I left off this list some players that had come to the Astros as MiLB FA including

  • Drew Butera

  • Robel Garcia

  • CJ Hinojosa

  • Michael Kelly

  • Brandon Lawson

  • Nolan Riggs

  • Jacob Wilson

It looks like I missed

  • Leovanny Rodriguez


A couple of these were on the Astros top 30 prospect lists at one time.


Teams set their new 40-man rosters/ protect from Rule 5 draft – 11/19


One of the bigger challenges every year is determining who to protect and who to expose to the Rule 5 draft. The Astros had several players that were on the 60-day IL that have or will be activated and added to the 40-man roster.


The challenge is before a team can sign a free agent there must be a spot for them on the 40-man roster. If one adds too many prospects to the 40-man roster, those players would have to be DFAed and be exposed to a waiver claim to create a roster spot for a FA signing. In general, it would be better to have a player to stay off the 40-man list and pass through the Rule 5 draft than to add that player now and DFA them if their roster spot is needed.


On 11/19, the team has to set the 40-man roster it wants to protect from the Rule 5 draft. In that process it is usually ideal to have at least a couple of roster spots for free agent signings or for a Rule 5 draftee.


Since I assumed all of the arbitration players will be tendered, they will remain on the 40-man roster.


Of all of the players eligible to be added to the 40-man roster and protected, I believe the Astros will add Jeremy Pena and Shawn Dubin.


I believe Freudis Nova and Andre Scrubb may be traded or otherwise left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft. These options are fluid and I will update this section accordingly.


These are the players I suspect will be on the 40-man roster on 11/19. Players shaded yellow are my 40-man adds. Players in pink are my 40-man drops.




This would means there is a long list of players expose to the Rule 5 draft. I will check the accuracy of this list as the Rule 5 draft date approaches. Do not be surprised if some of these players are also traded.




11/8/21 Note- After checking with the great Jimmy Price (@AstrosFuture) and getting his input, I have officially added Jonathan Bermudez to my 40-man roster. To maintain the roster at 38, I am dropping Baez from the roster. This would be an admission that this was a bad FA signing last year and he would still be owed $6.3M.

The next bubble players are Perez, Diaz, and France probably. Again the Astros may trade some players off of their Rule 5 list or players they current consider the 35-38th players on the current roster.



Free Agents open to negotiate with all teams – 11/8


Signing free agents is the Christmas day of the offseason. Part of the fun and frustration is one never KNOWS what day is actually Christmas and when they can open the present of a new player to the team. For some Christmas has not come until February or March or even later in isolated cases.


If Jim Crane is willing to hold payroll at 2021 levels (given the reduced revenue and attendance from 2019 he may not be), the Astros have about $50M to strategically spend on FA and at least two open roster spots (though trades and other moves could open more slots.)


To do Free Agency right, in my view, you must do the other steps first. One must decide which of their current players they will re-sign, offer arbitration, add or drop from the roster. With these plans in place, then, one needs to self assess the strengths and weaknesses of their roster. Where will free agents help the team?


The Astros have been on a dynastic run over the past several years. The roster is still very good. In general, with the departure of Verlander and Greinke, the team will shift to younger players. The age distribution of the 40-man roster I proposed above is here.


For this graph, I added 0.65 to adjust their current age to calculate their season age in 2022. When I look at this graph it tells me with the departure of veterans like Verlander and Greinke, the large wave of young pitchers is impossible to miss. The Astros could add a few key veterans in the 28-32 year-old range to add leadership and experience to the clubhouse.


10/10/21 Note- To Amplify this so you don't miss this. More than HALF of the 23 pitchers I project to be on the 2022 Astros 40-man roster- 12 in total- will be playing in their 26-year old season or less.


In 2014-2019, the Astros hitting was migrated to several young studs that became the core of the offense (Springer, Correa, Bregman, Tucker, and Alvarez) while the pitching was left to mostly experienced veterans (Keuchel, Verlander, Cole, Greinke, Smilth, and others). Now we have transitioned to a roster with waves of young pitching taking over as the bats try to strike a balance of vets with a few young hitters.


Given the 40-man roster, what do the Astros need in terms of talent? Let me reintroduce you to the concept of the WAR heat map. For this heat map, I use the Fangraphs projections of each team's roster by position and then rank them (red is good, blue is not good). Disclaimer- this is the data as of 11/5/21 and DOES NOT include ANY Free Agents. This heat map will show you not only what the Astros need but what EVERY team needs. You can answer what other teams will be going after a shortstop for example. Spend time with this data before proceeding.


Let's translate the heatmap into WAR positional rankings and compare this to the 2021 team. We can also use this data to define a "Free Agent Gap." This is the magnitude of a Free Agent needed to upgrade a position to either its 21 WAR level or what was at least league average for the position in 2021. If the Astros could fill every gap they would be a serious World Series contender again. Here is what this analysis looks like.


The #Astros before any Free Agents are signed project to produce 42.3 WAR. This projects to be 7th best in MLB. In 2020, they produced 50.8 WAR.


Note: I use the 2021 actual data to measure the gap because comparing to the other teams at this point would give one a false sense of security. Other teams will also be improving their 2022 projections and the heat map and positional ranking will need to be updated over the offseason.


Let's revisit what Jim Crane said about his team.

Crane: “Everybody knows what we need. We need a shortstop, we need some pitching and maybe another player or two.”

Thankfully, the owner is aligned with the data.


Conclusions from the Free Agent Gap


11/16/21 Note

  • The Astros rank 28th in WAR at Catcher- I have an idea how they can address this later through a trade

  • Reports indicate the Astros are pursuing an option in Center Field to improve CF

  • The Astros need a shortstop- not a shocking revelation- when the owner says it, then you know it is true. This data shows the gap is significant

  • The Astros need more pitching- ditto on Crane

  • The Astros should improve their Starting Pitching to maintain true championship level possibilities. Being the 11th best SP probably needs to be better.

  • The Astros are potentially losing Graveman, Raley, and Yimi Garcia. Two of those are part of the four relief pitchers they traded for last year to help a good but not great bullpen

  • Relief pitching is greatest pitching need- Let's dig into that a little more

The table to the left shows the top 10, by innings pitched in 2021, relief pitchers currently on the Astros 40-man roster.


The biggest issue I saw with the Astros and that we covered here many time was terrible platoon splits from critical pitchers. This showed up last in game 6 of the World Series in the seventh inning when Ryne Stanek (excellent vs. RHH, poor vs LHH) gave up a home run to excellent LHH Freeman, It happened all year vs. LHH to Graveman, Stanek, Javier, Montero, and others. It happened all year vs. RHH to Raley, Taylor, and in reverse splits to Bielak and Maton. The Astros bullpen has many pitchers that were only effective pitching to one side in 2021.


Therefore my conclusion is that the Astros need RP that can get both LHH and RHH out. One FA acquisition should probably be a LHP to replace Raley,


11/9/21 Note- A current theory I have about the Astros front office, based on their acquisitions and pitcher usage, is that they are guiding their decisions based on xwOBA and not wOBA. It it actually more complicated than that and is based on pitcher pitch arsenal and location. but is we were to consider a single stat that shows the value they place on a pitcher capability vs. LHH and RHH, it would likely be xwOBA and not just wOBA. This is described in the Statcast glossary here.


So what would the same table look like with xwOBA?


In short, the platoon splits may be not quite as bad as the wOBA showed and it is also very evident why the Astros love Maton so much. Maton's xwOBA are better than his actually wOBA. We could digress into a discussion about statistical significance, sample sizes, and repeatability. I will summarize that I believe it is due to the smaller sample size of results for a RP that drives the Astros to using xwOBA type stats. This data also gives one some optimism about Emanuel and Solomon, albeit very small sample sizes for each.


There are a couple of wildcards that come up when considering the Astros RP in 2022- Baez and James. Both were out for most of the year with injuries. Both have had some success in the past. Both have career wOBA platoon splits and performances that are similar to what the Astros would want. Baez showed a potentially troubling drop in velocity (3-4 mph). James was terrible in his short time in 2020. Only the Astros will have access to know if there is any reason to be optimistic about either wild card.


In addition to RP, I believe the Astros should pursue an experienced SP that has perhaps also pitched as a RP. The Free Agent Gap table shows there would be value in a SP too.


Disclaimer- last year at this time I thought the Astros (desperate for proven CF help- ha!) should get Jackie Bradley Jr. for CF and Alex Colume for the bullpen. Both were disasters in 2021. That is part of the fun and reality of shopping for free agents at Christmas. Some will turn out to be coal in your stocking.


Let me show you all of the alternatives I suggested LAST YEAR

Lessons learned

  • Picking Free Agents is hard

  • Injuries can destroy a good signing- Baez?

So who can the Astros get?


Shortstop


The Astros and their fans are spoiled after watching Carlos Correa at SS since 2015. As shown in the beginning of this, I believe the Astros should mount a competitive bid to resign Correa.


Today the great Mark Berman reported this.

If true, Correa is not likely to take this offer. IF this is just a way of saying the contract has a vesting option after five years that depends on PA or games played before the final three to five years kick in he MIGHT. I am going to chose to believe that.


I could see this deal sort of deal if the Astros truly wanted to play check book baseball.


Correa would take this. The Astros would not offer it. You may ask why are these numbers so much higher than the first set? It is the price for the vesting option insurance.


My filters for selecting a FA SS include

  • Defensive WAR > 3

  • OPS >0.800

  • wRC+ >110

  • wOBA and xwOBA > 0.320

  • 32 years old or younger

Correa hits all of these filters.

If the Astros can't get Correa, what can they do?

As shown in the table, my back up option would be Chris Taylor. I would propose to him a $40M/ 4yr deal (10M AAV) or $36M/ 3yr deal ($12M AAV). You would be fair to point out the Taylor would be a defensive liability at short. My concept would be Taylor at SS until Pena or Leon is ready. After Pena or Leon is a proven capable SS, Taylor could shift to CF or Utility. He would play everyday and rotate relief for the other aging position players.


11/7/21 Note- I added the players that indeed did get the QO to the table above. I admit I am VERY surprised that the Dodgers offered Chris Taylor the QO. If the Astros signed Taylor, they would lose their second round pick. I am not against giving up that pick to get a good SS. However my expected contract may be very far off. If Taylor would only project to get $40M/4 or $36M/3, I think he very well might ACCEPT the QO of $18.4M/1. I will be monitoring this and update here over the next 10 days. If Taylor does accept and Correa is not an option, the Astros may look at Trevor Story or Marcus Semien.


11/8/21 Note - Several Sources (Fangraphs and MLB Trade Rumors are shown in the table) published FA signing projections today and I adjusted my numbers to consider that input. Correa seems to be tracking to at least a $32M AAV. These higher projections also make the Chris Taylor option less attractive. I believe that Trevor Story is the third option here.

  • Shortstops

  • Carlos Correa ($288M/9 yr - $32M AAV or $300M/10 yr - $30M AAV)

  • Trevor Story ($120M/5 yr - $24M AAV or $132M/6 yr - $22M AAV)

  • Chris Taylor ($60M/4 yr - $15M AAV)

11/12/21 Note- Today I found something that completely blew me away to the point I am going to end up writing three articles that will have the same fact in them. As described in the Who are they? article- Trevor Story is the most statistically similar player independent of age to Carlos Correa. That is in the entire history of MLB baseball in the Baseball Reference database. Mic Drop.


Read more about Correa and Story here.


You may ask why not save the money and let Pena take over at SS. Having a Taylor bridge allows the Astros to have Pena come up and not immediately face the starting SS pressure. Also understand the position flexibility Taylor has:

That defensive flexibility would be very valuable with an aging Altuve, Bregman, and Brantley.


11/8/21 Note- Story has just played SS in the majors but did play 2B and 3B in the minors. At least near term Story is an EXCELLENT defensive SS as well. Pena might have the utility role until it became clear Story was ready for another position which could be four seasons away. Pena might replace Altuve full time before he replaced Story.


What the Astros will do at pitcher will depend on which path they take at SS. Here are the options:



11/7/21 Note- I also added the spot for which pitchers were offered the QO. Here is where things might get tricky. If the SS the Astros sign was offered the QO (the top 3 possibilities beyond Correa were), Then I highly doubt the Astros want to lose both their 2nd and the 75-80th pick (they got for Verlander per se) to sign one of the pitchers who got the QO. This means Ray, Rodriguez are out as SP signees and Iglesias is out as a RP signee.


If they still want to go after the more premium side of SP the target maybe Stroman or possibly Gausman. Keep the 50-55 number in mind. The SS and RP and SP signees must all fit into that range.


11/9/21 Note- If my working theory about xwOBA is correct, this is the same pitching table using xwOBA stats.


A few points of interest if we compare the wOBA and xwOBA data.

  • Gausman is a little more average (something to investigate)

  • Stroman is significantly worse and based on xwOBA would not be targeted

  • DeSciafani is worse against LHH significantly (something to investigate)

  • Rodriguez is significantly better and maybe should become a target. This is validated by his FIP

  • Gray may be of more interest as well- I will consider him as my lower cost FA option

  • Graveman vs. LHH makes it really hard to prioritize when there are better options

  • Chafin and Knebel are worse but still really good

  • Iglesias demands our attention and his market must be considered

  • Raley and Garcia are the platoon train wrecks we experienced in 2021


Given a budget of $50M to spend on Free Agents

  • If Correa is signed, the team will have $18-22M to spend on pitching

  • If an option like Taylor is signed, the team will have $38-40M to spend on pitching

My filters for selecting a FA Pitcher include

  • ERA AND FIP < 3.80

  • GB% > 43%

  • K/9 >10

  • wOBA vs. LHH and wOBA vs. RHH both < 0.315 and preferably < 0.280

  • 32 years old or younger


11/8/21 Note - Similarly to SS, the FA projections from Fangraphs and MLB Trade Rumors caused me to adjust the contract projections here.

  • Starting Pitching

  • LHSP- Robbie Ray ($125M/5 yr - $25M AAV or $108M/4 yr - $27M AAV)

  • RHSP- Kevin Gausman ($110M/5 yr - $22M AAV or $92M/4 yr - $23M AAV) - I will use Gausman for the high end possibility in the comparisons to follow

  • RHSP- Anthony DeSciafani ($24M/2 yr - $12M AAV)

  • RHSP- Jon Gray ($52M/ 4yr- $13M AAV) - I like Gray as an option over DeSciafani so I will refer to him more in comparisons

  • RHSP- Justin Verlander ($40M/2yr)- I am adding here for comparisons

  • Relief Pitchers

  • LHRP- Andrew Chafin ($10M/2yr - $5M AAV)

  • RHRP- Corey Knebel ($16M/2 yr - $8M AAV)

  • RHRP- Raisel Iglesias ($39M/3 yr- $13MM AAV)

The Astros COULD resign Graveman or Yimi Garcia but I believe either Chafin or Knebel would be better options.


Previously, we discussed the Correa Plan. Now we focus on what I will call The Marte Plan


The Marte Plan


11/16/21 Note- Multiple reports have linked the Astros as having interest in Starling Marte who is a top 10 CF with a 3.0-3.1 projected WAR.


You may ask don't the Astros already have multiple CFs in Meyers, McCormick, Siri, and Leon in AAA.

  • Meyers may be out to mid-season recovering from his shoulder surgery

  • McCormick is probably better suited as a fourth OF with flexibility to play in RF/LF which are more natural positions for him. Projection systems indicate McCormick to be a below average hitter and part time player. He has surpassed all projections so far and I personally believe in him beyond that. I think if the Astros DO sign Marte that McCormick is a great trade asset for a team willing to let Chas play everyday.

  • It is way too small of a sample size on Siri to trust he will be a full time MLB player

  • Scouts do not have consensus on the ceiling for Leon and it is unlikely the Astros would want to turn over CF to a rookie again in 2022.

Therefore, yes, signing Marte makes sense for the Astros to improve CF performance in 2022. Beyond 2022, Brantley will be a free agent after this season.


Here are the options I think the Astros will have the most interest in. You can play GM yourself by giving yourself $50-55M budget and pick your free agents. Eduardo Rodriguez would be on this list, but he reportedly signed with the Tigers on 11/15/21.


What choices would you make? Reach out to me and let me know.


Measuring the IMPACT of the Free Agent Options


For about a week I have been less than satisfied with leaving you with a bunch of options and not explaining more why I considered the choices I would make are the best ones. I developed the following tables to assess the impact of all of these options.


The first table is the NET impact on the Astros WAR of signing each player.



This table then shows the impact of each option and the AAV cost.


One challenging detail in the projection data

- Taylor is projected at 1.8 WAR over 548 PA. That is 0.00328 WAR/PA.

- Pena is projected at 1.0 WAR over 280 PA. That is 0.00357 WAR/PA.

That means allocating PA away from Pena and too Taylor actually LOSES WAR!


Honestly, this does not feel right, but by this system signing Taylor is not the win my gut tells me it is.

For each option shown I project the impact to

- WAR for the hitters- this IS NOT a simple addition of the FA WAR. I have gone into a playing time allocation and adjusted for the addition of the FA

- WAR for of the Starting Pitchers

- WAR for the Relief Pitchers

- WAR for SP innings that transition to RP


My choice would be the last one "Plan P"

  • Signing Starling Marte - CF

  • Signing Jon Gray - SP

  • Signing Andrew Chafin - RP

This would add 3.8 WAR, and would be projected to cost $38.00M. This is the first part of what I would call the Marte Plan.

BUT I would not be done


Teams execute trades to improve the team - at any time in the off-season


I am adding this section because to fully address the Astros weaknesses and also strategically get value for Rule 5 bubble players.


Since I did not spend the full $50-55M self-imposed budget, there is space to add some salary or to pay salaries of players we suggest the Astros trade. As a reminder, I said the team had the follow needs this off-season.

Let's transition what we called a "Free Agent Gap" to now a "Free Agent and Trade Gap."


As we started the Free Agent Section, we said the Astros has the following needs. Also included is how well we addressed these gaps with The Marte Plan before a trade. In order of our priorities:

  • The Astros need a shortstop- 3.7 WAR gap to 2021

  • Not addressed- plan would be to have Diaz and Pena share time at SS

  • Status incomplete

  • Possible Trade opportunity

  • Relief pitching is greatest pitching need- 1,4 WAR gap to 2021

  • The signing of Chafin adds 0.3 WAR

  • The signing of Gray frees up time for players like Javier and/or Urquidy to pitch out of the bullpen more and adds 0.9 WAR for the RP. (This may be an overestimate.)

  • Status partially addressed. Should add more RP help if possible

  • Possible Trade opportunity

  • The Astros are reportedly pursuing an option in Center Field to improve CF- 1.9 Projected WAR gap to 2021

  • Marte improves this by 1.8 WAR

  • Status Complete

  • The Astros should improve their Starting Pitching to maintain true championship level possibilities- 1.4 WAR gap to 2021

  • Adding Gray adds 0.6 WAR

  • Status Partially Complete

  • The Astros would hope that one of the younger stud pitching prospects develops and surprises

  • The Astros rank 28th in WAR at Catcher- Over 1.0 WAR to having at least a mid-tier catching WAR

  • Not addressed

  • Possible Trade opportunity

If the Astros want to fill the remaining gaps with trades, here are some official Larry the GM recommendations with actual proposed trades.


Trade #1

Jacob Stallings (C) and PTBLN from Pittsburgh for McCormick, Castro, J.J. Matijevic, and Jojanse Torres and Cash


Why the Astros do this deal

  • Stallings is the NL Gold Glove winner at Catcher, 95 wRC+ with REVERSE splits (112 RHP/ 63 LHP) in 2021, projected 2.3 WAR starting catcher, Maldonado can go to the back up role/ part time pitching coach, not a FA until 2025

  • PTBNL- Blake Weiman (AAA LHRP) if he passes through Rule 5 draft- 26 yr old just add another LHRP to the Astros organization and see if he develops

  • McCormick would be blocked by Brantley, Marte, and Tucker. Siri and Diaz can cover 4th OF role until Meyers returns

  • Matijevic (1B/OF AAA) and Torres (SP/RP AAA) are both Rule 5 eligible- both could be developmental depth for the Pirates

  • Castro is depth with both Stallings and Maldonado and could be part-time starter in Pittsburgh- owed $3.5M in 2021

Why Pittsburgh does this deal (go back to the heat map to understand team strengths and needs)

  • Stalling will be in his age 32 season and does not have a ton of experience, he is now Arbitration eligible- projected Arb settlement- $2.6M in 2022 and up in future years

  • McCormick could start in LF or RF for the Pirates- might develop beyond current projections, Pre-Arb until 2024 season

  • Matijevic (1B/OF AAA) and Torres (SP/RP AAA) - both could develop and play in Pittsburgh in 2022 or 2023

  • Castro could be part-time starter in Pittsburgh

  • Cash- $1M to pay the difference in salaries Castro vs. Stallings

Reality check for this trade

Feedback from https://www.baseballtradevalues.com/trade-simulator/


The Pirates should be willing to do this deal.


Trade #2

Taylor Rogers (RHRP) for Joe Perez, Tyler Ivey, Jordan Brewer, Austin Hansen


Why the Astros do this deal

  • Rogers (LHRP has been an EXCELLENT RP and would be a premium LHRP for the Astros, Projected 1.7 WAR (FG Depth Chart) Closer/ RP

  • Perez (AA 3B/1B- #9 MLB.com and #6 Baseball America Astros prospect)- is on the bubble as Rule 5 eligible

  • Ivey (RHSP- #8 Fangraphs, #10 Baseball America and #12 MLB.com Astros prospect) appeared in MLB got injured and appeared in September in AAA is on the 40-man and blocked by other pitching

  • Brewer (A OF- #13 Fangraphs #15 Baseball America and #21 MLB.com Astros prospect)- is 24 and still has not made it past A ball, will be Rule 5 eligible in December 2023

  • Hansen (AAA RHSP- #18 Fangraphs Astros prospect)- had Tommy John in August and is Rule 5 eligible

Why Minnesota does this deal (go back to the heat map to understand team strengths and needs)

  • Rogers has only one year left of control. The Twins would also save the $6.7M projected arbitration salary

  • Perez fills a potential need at 1B 2022/2023

  • Ivey option as SP in 2022

  • Brewer possible LF option or depth if Buxton is moved

  • Hansen future pitcher

Reality Check for this Trade

The Twins should be willing to do this trade


Trade #3

I will detail this idea that I get from Jake Kaplan at the Athletic

Paul DeJong (SS/IF) for Luis Santana, Yainer Diaz, Freudis Nova


Why the Astros do this deal

  • DeJong can be a bridge until Pena is ready, Projected 1.8 WAR (FG Depth Chart) SS/IF, utility player after Pena is ready, Under team control 2023-2024 with club options in 2025 and 2026

  • Santana, Diaz, and Nova are all Rule 5 eligible


Why St. Louis does this deal (go back to the heat map to understand team strengths and needs)

  • DeJong's payroll number is increasing and his wRC+ was only 86 in 2021 (OPS only 0.674)

  • Santana, Diaz, and Nova are all rated as Top 30 prospects

Reality Check for this Trade

The Cardinals might be willing to do this deal.


What does it all mean?


The Astros are at a crossroads. There are two groups of options


Option 1- The Correa Plan

  1. Re-sign Correa - $288M/ 9 yr - net 3.2 WAR

  2. Re-sign Verlander - $40M/ 2 yr - net 2.1 WAR

  3. Sign Chafin - $10M/ 2 yr - net 0.3 WAR

  4. Total - $57M AAV

  5. War Improvement (Hit 3.2/ SP 1.2/ RP 1.2) Overall 5.6

Option 2- The Marte and Trade Plan (The Marte Plan PLUS Trades)

  1. Sign Marte - $60M/ 3 yr - net 1.8 WAR

  2. Sign Gray - $52M/ 4 yr - net 1,5 WAR

  3. Sign Chafin - $10M/ 2 yr - net 0.3 WAR

  4. Trade for Stallings - net neutral AAV - net 1.1 WAR

  5. Trade for Rogers - net $6.7M AAV - net 1.7 WAR

  6. Trade for DeJong - net $7.6M AAV - net 0.6 WAR

  7. Total - $52M AAV

  8. War Improvement (Hit 3.5/ SP 0.6/ RP 2.9) Overall 7.0

As of right now, I would do the Marte and Trade Plan.

Notice the massive improvements at Catcher, Shortstop, Center Field, and Relief Pitching. The only thing about this plan that may be the weak spot is the Starting Pitching.

Ask me about your plan. I will run the numbers.


These are the main off-season actions we can plan for the Astros at this point. As listed there are other critical things happening this off-season that could disrupt the timing and viability of some of these actions.


CBA Expires – 12/1


Most critically the CBA is about to expire. We will have a lot more to write about the CBA in the next couple of weeks. If there is no agreement or and agreement to an extension the next step will happen.


Owners will lock out players if there is no CBA agreement or extension – 12/2


All league activities could be shutdown on 12/2. All free agent activity frozen.


The Winter Meetings - 12/6-12/9- could be cancelled.

Rule 5 draft – 12/9- could be postponed. It is remotely possible the draft itself could be changed or eliminated in negotiations.


Until there is a framework for labor activities and contract negotiations, nothing could occur.


Given the positions the two sides have sent each other it is not looking good. The greatest reason to be positive is that the owners will not want a third season in a row to be financially impacted. As I said earlier, it is a terrible time for both sides to be setting the financial framework of their relationship in the CBA. I would not be surprised if both sides agreed to an extension with the changes they can agree upon for 2022. Both sides need to see in the next year or two what stable economics for the MLB are in the 2020s.


Let's hope if there is a lockout it leads to a quick resolution and we can start Spring Training and the season on time.


Pitchers and catchers report - ~2/14


First Day spring training games – 2/26


Opening Day – 3/31


I hope this helps you plan for and understand the actions the Astros will take in this off-season. It is an important transition year for the Astros. This article will be updated as moves are made and signings occur.


Look for the CBA article here.



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Carlos Correa

Houston Astros

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