Astros Winter Meetings Priorities Now
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Monday, the Baseball Winter Meeting start. What should the Astros do THIS WEEK?
This is going to be a quick post that builds on many of the things we have talked about previously. I am going to make this focused and direct and without a ton of stats (those are is the various articles that precede this.)
In our previous Astros offseason articles (see the Offseason Outline here) we showed the Astros have four primary areas to improve
So now there are three priorities.
No, they do not need a utility player. Hensley and Dubon are the utility players. Hensley projects to be better than the utility player you think you want.
The Astros have about $30-35M below the CBT. Listen to me now. Hear me later.
No matter what they SAY, they do NOT want to sign multi-year deals that take over the CBT because they will remain over the CBT and pay 50% tax rate in 2025.
They will have to chose not to bring Aluve or Bregman back in 2025 or chose not to extend Tucker.
The Astros will want neither of those futures. So how should they address the three remaining priorities while spending less than $30M and STILL make the kind of improvement and impact Jim Crane has discussed?
Step 1- Sign Willson Contreras
Yes, to make the biggest difference the answer is to spend two-thirds of my self imposed budget on WIllson Contreras. Let me be clear as we have said this multiple times, CATCHER is the weakest link for for this team going into 2023. The Astros destroyed their opportunity with Vazquez by not using him as a starting catcher in 2022. Contreras is really the only other catcher that moves the performance needle.
However, Contreras must be deployed at catcher 60-80 games a year to make the difference and make the signing valuable. When/ If it happens, we will detail this out.
Cost- $18-20M AAV
Step 2- Sign High Risk / High Reward Outfielder for One or Two Years
The Astros can take a chance in signing an OF. If they sign Contreras they won't be room for Benintendi. There are multiple OFers that have been excellent in the recent past that have a significant/ huge injury risk including:
Michael Brantley- 36 in 2023
Michael Conforto- 30 in 2023
Cody Bellinger- 27 in 2023
All three of these should not cost more than $12M AAV for a one to two year deal. The challenge is that the Astros are saying Brantley's injury status may not be known until March. Can they wait that long? Maybe.
IF the Astros don't get this help for the OF what would they do?
Alvarez would play more LF- he started 56 games in LF in 2022. That might go to 75-80 games started in this scenario.
Jake Meyers could be who you all thought he was in September 2021 and he and McCormick could time share CF and cover the remaining games in LF. How likely is this? Probably better than you think.
Despite Contreras not playing OF on a regular basis, he might get 15-20 in LF in this scenario.
The Astros have several prospects that are ready/ near ready- Matijevic. Leon, and Dirden. Even Yainer Diaz and Joe Perez have limited starts in the OF in AAA in 2022. Ideally, their target might be a September 2022 arrival (except Diaz). This scenario probably expedites that earlier. Can Diaz or one of the others step up to cover 50-60 starts in LF? Maybe?
That is a lot of options to mitigate any risk from signing or even not signing one of these three. I think the Astros should TRY to get Conforto or Bellinger to sign a one-year deal at $6 -9M with incentives. IF one is willing to take that deal, do it and don't wait until March.
What the Astros SHOULD NOT do is trade for Bryan Reynolds. Here is why.
Cost- $6-9M AAV
Step 3- Trade for Taylor Hearn
As I have stated multiple times, the Astros could use a LHRP or possibly a LHRP that COULD serve as an opener / emergency SP. I stated in my trade article that my target would be Joe Mantiply. I would love to trade for Mantiply but at a 6.8 trade value. I am not sure I want to give up what would be needed.
There is another option. Yesterday the Rangers signed Jason DeGrom. Their 40-man roster is now completely full. The Rangers profile as a team that might actually take a flyer in the Rule 5 draft IF they had a roster spot. I think the Astros should give them that option. Taylor Hearn is arguably the fourth best LHP on the Rangers. Very few teams need four LHP nor 3 LHRP. He is projected to have ZERO trade value. He was however far more effective as a RP. Consider these stats.
His ERA was 5.13. His FIP is far better. His relief stats even better. He has an option year . Yes this is a gamble but I think if you give the Rangers a list of a few low level prospects with a few years before they are Rule 5 eligible, they can pick two and this deal gets done. If they have interest in one of the Astros Rule 5 eligible guys, you can put that player in the deal. You do this deal in the next 4few days and it gives the Rangers options for the Rule 5 draft which has value, Hearn COULD also be used as a spot starter if you had to have one.
Cost= Hearn is in first year of Arbitration and projects to make $1.7M in 2022.
If the Astros do these three things in the next week, they are ready for 2023 and they are a favorite to go far in the postseason. Overall the cost of this would be $26-31M.
Check. I met the budget constraints too.
Statistics from Fangraphs.com, BaseballSavant.com, baseballtradevalues.com, baseballreference.com.
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