Last week, the Houston Astros were eliminated in 5 games to the Boston Red Sox to cap off the ALCS.
It was a sad finish to a great season for Houston.
I've heard some media people say the season was a failure with how Houston went out and others say it was still a successful season. I lean more on the side that the season was still a success. I would've said it was more of a success if Astros would've been more competitive in the ALCS, but the team still did some good things. They managed to break the franchise season record in wins at 103 despite 3 of their core players missing some time (Springer/Altuve/Correa).
It was still a sad finish... don't get me wrong. Watching the ALCS unfold felt like a gut punch at times. Red Sox came up with clutch two out hitting. Some questionable ump calls at times. The calls weren't the reason the Astros lost the series though. Boston just outplayed Houston. They cashed in during more of the moments that counted. They worked great at bats. They were the better team in the series.
The games were also a kazillion hours long. Each game after game 1 felt like a long drawn out sack of misery (for Astros fans at least). By Game 5... it was almost just like "end this misery right now". That was the vibe I felt heading into the game with the Astros down 3-1. Each game was like a new way to be disappointed. From questionable calls in one game, to disagreeing how A.J. Hinch managed another game (and a lot of the series) to finally game 5 where it was just a subdue feeling. It was a rough series.
However, there's still a lot of reason to be optimistic for Astros fans. The team has a chance to be better next season. They're already good as is, but I think from a money standpoint... they can cut corners and upgrade here and there. The team should still be in contention for at least a few more seasons minimum. They'll probably be three or four more of these offseason posts, on the blog, before the new season kicks off in late March next year. Just as a way I can babble my thoughts on the team. I'm more excited about the Astros offseason than I am the Rockets and Texans' respected regular seasons.
The Rockets and Texans will do what the Rockets and Texans do. Rockets will finish anywhere from #2-6 in the Western Conference standings. Then they'll lose to the Warriors in the playoffs. Texans will finish 9-7 or 10-6 (if Deshaun Watson can keep his punctured lung to as punctured as it'll possibly get and nothing worse). Then they'll get dashed in the first round of the playoffs. Rockets and Texans are like watching a movie you know will have a "meh" ending. They'll both provide glimpses of excitement during the regular season, but you know not to get too excited because the end result is all but guaranteed already. At least I have hope with the Astros.
As far as offseason moves and happenings for the Astros... there's a lot of "ifs". I do think Dallas Keuchel is a foregone conclusion in not coming back to the team. Unless he takes a massive paycut to stay. There's most likely going to be teams that offer him upwards to a mult-year 100 million contract. He's a good pitcher when he's on his game, but nowhere near 100 million dollar quality. Not when the team already has several options that can fill his place in the starting rotation for a lot less money.
Starting Rotation Going Forward
Verlander and Cole are coming back. So the team already has their two ace workhorses returning. The rest of the rotation is a question mark (at the point of this post). Charlie Morton (like Keuchel) is a free agent. I think he returns. I give Morton a 65/35 percentage of returning. This is all guess work though. This is me being a baseball analyst. I'm just a guy with a blog. Predicting things.
I have a sneaking suspicion that we see Forrest Whitley in the starting rotation to start next season. Especially if Keuchel indeed doesn't come back. The youngster is suppose to have electric stuff. And speaking of electric stuff... guys like Josh James and Framber Valdez both busted onto the scene late last season and both looked impressive. James with his fastballs and Framber showed the ability to work out of jams. Gun to my head right now - I say James is in the starting rotation next season over Framber. I think Framber comes out of the bullpen. That leaves one rotation spot open.
Lance McCullers has been a starter the last few seasons, but with rumored Tommy John surgery in his future... he may miss a large portion of next season. It's unfortunate because he has a nasty curve ball when he's dealing. He just hasn't been able to stay healthy. So one spot open.... question marks...
If I had to predict right now... I think the team either puts Colin McHugh or a free agent signee in the rotation. I have no idea which one. It's still very early in the off season to know what will happen. McHugh is a former starter turned bullpen ace last season. So he knows what it takes to be a quality starter. That's the thing. This team could sign zero starters in the offseason and their rotation will still be stacked once again. Even without Keuchel. It makes sense to at least scout out the free agent wire, but this team should be perfectly fine with this starting day rotation:
Verlander, Cole, Whitley, Morton, James, McHugh
I just realized that's 6 guys. Not 5. So technically there may not be hypothetical spot open like I said a paragraph ago. You see... this is blogging as I go. I don't always edit after I type something here. This is not the Houston Chron. This is Jake Rambles. What up. So... hypothetically... if Whitley and James are in the rotation and Morton does come back... McHugh could be in the bullpen again. That's not a bad scenario for the team. McHugh was probably the most steady hand all season out of the pen.
All of the core guys are returning. Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Gurriel. The team needs to re-sign Marwin. He's an incredible asset to the team both offensively and how he can fill in near every position on defense. So hopefully the team and him are able to come to an agreement.
The team doesn't really have too many glaring holes on offense. Brian McCann will probably not come back as a catcher since his contract is up. I think Maldonaldo returns as a catcher, but he's a liability on offense. So I think the team signs a more offensive catcher to offset Maldonaldo's lack of offense.
It's tricky. I don't know if Evan Gattis returns as DH. I don't know where Kyle Tucker fits in next season. I don't think he's a starting day outfielder with the way he played this past season. It wouldn't surprise me if he's on the roster to start the season, but as a starter... that would a little bit. Jake Marisnick... I hope to see back on the team. He's probably the best center fielder in the entire league. He just hasn't been able to hit very well. Josh Reddick... I have a weird feeling about Reddick.
There's some decent offensive players out there in free agency this offseason. Reasonable players the Astros could actually probably afford (especially if they don't resign Keuchel). Machado and Harper will be lurking in free agency, but those players come with an enormous price tag. One free agent I would really like the Astros to get is Rockies' outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. He would probably take the place of Reddick if the Astros managed to get him. Which pains me as a fan. I like Reddick. I like the attitude he brings to the team. I like his personality as well.
So hypothetically if the Astros signed Gonzalez...
The (hopeful) starting outfield would be -
Marwin Gonzalez (LF), Springer (CF), Carlos Gonzalez (RF)
or if Reddick is still on the team -
Reddick (LF), Springer (CF), Carlos Gonzalez (RF)
I am digging deep in hypotheticals right now. This would leave Kemp and/or Marisnick on the bench and if it's the latter outfield I just listed... I'm not sure where you put Marwin if he's still on the team (which I hope he is). So lots of things still to be determined. I'm just ramblin' possible scenarios. Scenarios I would personally like to see. IF Carlos Gonzalez did replace Reddick... I think it would be an improvement. At least offensively. Reddick can be streaky, but Carlos would be a little more steady.
As I mentioned earlier - this is post #1 out of probably three or four Astros offseason posts before next March. It'll be interesting to see how a couple of my predictions turn out, in this post, come the start of the new season. It should be fun regardless of how things pan out. If you've actually read to this point... you're either a big Astros/baseball fan or straight bored out of your mind. Either way - I appreciate it.
Things will start rolling again soon for the blog.
To my 2 readers... I appreciate the patience.
I see you, Grandma.