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Improving the 2024 Astros- Position Players

Updated: Nov 14

In "A First Look at the 2024 Astros" we identified four key team needs. Today, we will look at some options that meet the constraints the Astros have to fill a need in the outfield and for a backup catcher. Here are the ways the Astros could fill their position player needs. We cover the pitching options here too.




I limited the potential FA targets to those who projected to deliver at lease 0.8 WAR to reflect that the players the Astros acquire must make a material impact.


The data here is from multiple sources as described. Baseline statistics are from Fangraphs.com and Baseball Savant.



Catcher- someone to backup Yainer Diaz


Catcher Free Agent Options

Yainer Diaz does not need much in a backup. He is both a talented hitter and defender. He needs a decent hitting plus hitter vs. LHP because Diaz has been so great vs. RHH.


My wish list for a potential backup C

- wRC+ of at least 80 overall/ OPS greater than 0.700

- Decent fielding catcher

- Bonus if under $3M AVV in 2024 and 2025

- Prefer under 32

- Prefer wOBA and xwOBA in both platoon splits to be greater than 0.280

I filtered out the free agents who failed multiples of these filters (three strikes and you are out.) Now the focus should be on finding the most efficient delivery of the WAR (lowest $/WAR).


I compared these options to Maldonado who fails SEVEN of the filters.


I pulled the available projections from:

  1. Cot's

  2. MLBTR (MLB trade rumors)

  3. Fangraphs

  4. My own projections (I want to see more projections first.)

I will update these as more data becomes available.

Caratini and Murphy are the most efficient and either should be available for $3-4M per year.


Personally, of all of these options, I would pursue Caratini for his better defense.


Outfield- Someone to start in LF- at least a platoon LF vs. RHP


Note: Dana Brown has said it is NOT his priority to improve the OF. As you read through this I think you will realize how limited the options REALLY ARE. I think that really means that improving the OF is number four on the Astros priority list. I can align with that as I think the options here are not all that exciting.


Outfield Free Agent Options


My wish list for a potential OF

- Goal is to have at least an average player

- wRC+ of at least 100 overall/ OPS greater than 0.735

- prefer LHH or switch hitter who is good vs. RHP

- Above average fielder

- Bonus if capable of playing CF or 1B.

- Bonus if under $5M AVV in 2024 and 2025

- Prefer under 34

- Prefer wOBA and xwOBA in both platoon splits to be greater than 0.300

I filtered out the free agents who failed multiples of these filters. Now the focus should be on finding the most efficient delivery of the WAR (lowest $/WAR).


I compared these options to Brantley and to Meyers. This FA needs to be better than the production one could expect with Meyers to justify signing a FA to take playing time from him.

I added the Korean star Jung-Hoo Lee. I am not sure how to project him and I am not sure what his market is.


I am not impressed with ANY of the OF FA options.


Too expensive to meet payroll constraints- Gurriel, Soler, Hernandez, Bellinger

Projected production does not justify PT over Meyers- Rosario, Pham, Heyward, Kiermaier


Lee, even with all of the unknowns, may be the best option among the poor OF FA options.


If I had to choose from the others, I would choose Heyward, Kiermaier, and Pham in that order.


Fortunately, teams CAN trade to fill needs in addition to or instead of signing Free Agents.


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Trade Options


A few days ago, LarrytheGM and Mark Roffey (@FanOfAllTeams) went through the League Team by Team to define what their team strengths and team weaknesses are with a focus on what teams might be viable trade partners. The teams below might be willing trade partners based on those discussions.


I followed a similar process as above for the free agents as I identified the potential catcher and outfield trade targets. I filtered out players that failed the filters above.

For the trade options I explored deeply, I proposed an equitable trade based on the values from the baseballtradevalues.com website.


My efficiency here is to have the greatest WAR impact for the least trade value cost- Minimize TV/WAR.

Of the catcher trade deals I am most interested in trading for Carson Kelly despite his subpar 2023 season. Kelly is a decent catcher defensively and also has positive LHP platoon splits that would pair well with Diaz's reverse split dominance with RHP. Kelly is a free agent after the 2024 season and is currently listed at negative trade value. He should require very limited trade capital investment.


For the OF Trade options there are several I would prefer over any of the OF FA Options.


I am not sure the Astros could convince the Athletics to trade Rooker, but I am not sure the Athletics are built to need Rooker on a team heading to 90+ losses.


Tauchman is my below the radar trade option that I think would work for both teams. If the Cubs sign multiple FAs, they may be willing to shed the first year Arb Tauchman that has a high variability of performance. Sending the Cubs Meyers and a prospect may be enough to get this deal done.


If not, maybe the Reds can be convinced to trade Fraley. Fraley would be a platoon only option.


To summarize my options in order

Catcher

  1. Sign Caratini ASAP if possible- $3-4M AAV

  2. Trade for Kelly if the trade cost is reasonable- net $3.5M AAV

  3. Sign Tom Murphy if 1 and 2 are not possible- $3-4M AAV

Left Field

  1. Get Oakland to trade Rooker- net ~$5M off the payroll

  2. Sign Jung-hoo Lee if price is reasonable- If below $10M AAV

  3. It MAY be best to stick with Meyers playing more regularly than the next options

  4. Get the Cubs to trade Tauchman- close to neutral payroll

  5. Get Cincinnati to trade Fraley - net ~$5M off the payroll

  6. Sign Heyward if all else fails- $4-4.5M AAV


The Astros could take care of these two positional needs for less than $8M AAV. They will need the money for the pitchers next.


THIS is how I see the Astros addressing their critical needs at backup catcher and in the outfield. Let me know what you think.


This is how I see the 2024 Astros improving their Position Players.


Here is the link for the integrated plan with the pitching:

Improving the 2024 Astros- The Comprehensive Plan (Link)


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