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 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. 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 (, 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, 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 thei