Free Agents Part 1- Astros Team Needs Assessment and Internal Options

Updated: Nov 16

Can the Astros resolve team needs Internally?


As we showed in the Off-season Outline, the exclusive negotiating period ended Thursday at 4PM CST.

We should get answers to the options laid out in the Astros Free Agent article soon most notably Justin Verlander who has been reported to formally opt out of his $25M option. For this analysis I will assume the two scenarios that are shown in the Astros Payroll article


Senario 1

NO returning player is re-signed- CBT Payroll is $169M.

For a quick refresher on the new CBT click here.


Senario 2- Three 2022 Astros return

Verlander signed at $40M AAV

Brantley signed at $10M AAV

Gurriel signed at $6M AAV

Maton and Taylor are not tendered to have their roster spots.

CBT Payroll is at $222M


These general Scenarios will lead to case studies for each


Assess the CURRENT Roster Weaknesses


At LarryTheGM.com we use the heatmap process. The Astros are highlighted in the orange row. This is a snapshot of how they rank RIGHT NOW.


Before breaking this down I want you to see the Astros are fifth in this list but look at the six teams below them. At least half of those are FAR less complete of a roster today than your Astros are. It is very likely without significant upgrades, that the Astros could easily be EIGHTH on this list.

As I said, the Astros are projected to be the FIFTH most talented team in 2023 right now. These are the fangraphs.com depth chart numbers not mine, but I do think they are VERY interesting.

  • Catcher is still predicted to be the least competitive position

  • First Base WITHOUT Gurriel is a middle of the pack WAR producer.

  • The projections LOVE Matijevic. I don't believe that he will be as good as they predict.

  • The 1B projections get WORSE if they re-sign Gurriel (about 0.12 WAR for every 100 PA)

  • Reminder- Gurriel produced Negative 0.9 WAR in 2022

  • Shortstop projections predict Pena will have a relative regression to the mean/ slump when compared to last year. I think the Astros are rolling with Pena at SS no matter what the projection models say.

  • The Left Field projection assumes a playing time distribution that I do not align with. Here are my numbers. I think Alvarez plays more, and McCormick plays less in LF.

FG PT%

LGM PT% w/ Brantley

LGM PT% w/o Brantley

McCormick

46%

21%

36%

Alvarez

23%

36%

36%

Dubon

18%

14%

14%

Dirden

11%

4%

7%

Brantley

21%

Projected LF WAR

2.8

3.2

3.1

  • Adding Brantley to the LF mix does not really move the WAR needle. If they re-sign Brantley it will be for more than the expected performance he would bring.

  • The Centerfield projection is also not great and assumes Myers 50%, McCormick 23%, Dubon 19%, and Leon 8%. I do not think the Astros will invest FA resources to CF with Leon and Dirden looming and Meyers with an offseason of healing.

  • Starting Pitching WITHOUT Verlander ranks SEVENTH. I will be blunt here. I don't believe it. I will show you why at some point if we end up there.

  • Relief pitching projects TENTH. I believe that one even less but I would be open to getting a LHRP.

Along with these WAR numbers let me show you the full PT distribution assumed for the batters. For every addition I will project in this two part series I adjust the PA according and THEN calculate the revised WAR.

Given all of the previous data, here are the apparent opportunities as I see it.

  • Catcher- What will the Astros do here?

  • The Astros are at a crossroads at catcher. What they DO will tell you what they REALLY THINK.

  • Unless Maldy retires due to the wear and tear, he has a vested option and will be back.

  • The Astros have two highly regarded catching prospect that BOTH played in 2022 briefly and BOTH SHOULD be ready as contributors in 2023- Korey Lee and Yainer Diaz.

  • The Astros did trade for Christian Vazquez in 2022 but he is not expected to return.

  • The Astros are rumored to have made a trade for Wilson Contreras before the Vazquez trade in 2022 before it was nixed by Jim Crane. They are rumored to be pursuing Contreras THIS offseason as a free agent.

  • CAN they talk Maldy into a consultant/ coaching role? Monitor that!

  • Conclusion- IF the Astros actually get Contreras it means either Maldy is not coming back AND/OR they do not have as much confidence in Lee or Diaz as they did in Pena last year. If they can define a Coaching role for Maldy, perhaps Contreras is possible.

  • First Base- Matijevic is NOT getting the 392 PA FG projects while playing 1B.

  • My default is that the Astros bring back Yuli

  • However, Yuli MAY not be capable physically.

  • According to projections that would make the 1B projected WORSE!

  • Read more analysis about Yuli returning here

  • The Astros need to do something at First Base. Is that Hensley? I wany more and have Hensley in the super utility mode.

  • Left Field/ Center Field

  • The Astros help CF by playing Alvarez more in LF or Signing Brantley in LF

  • This Allows McCormick to play more in CF with Dubon less


I am going to save you from all of the data detail here and give you these answers with the internal options.


Senario 1

NO returning player is re-signed

Batting WAR

  • This Baseline WAR (using the FG playing time projections) for the batters is 30.7.

  • I can tweak the playing time and get to 30.9 WAR.

Pitching WAR

  • This Baseline WAR (using the FG playing time projections) for the pitchers is 15.7.

  • I can tweak the playing time and get to 16.3 WAR.

Senario 2

Three 2022 Astros return- Verlander, Gurriel, Brantley

  • The WAR for the Batters is down to 30.3

  • The WAR for the Pitchers is up to 17.7- up to second best pitching

Using the projections, there is no STATISTICAL REASON to bring back Gurriel and bringing back Brantley is statistically a near zero.


So if the Answer Isn't Brantley nor Yuli, who is?


We will explore options for five other scenarios as we strategically add external FA


Find out here


Data here is from Fangraphs.com,


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