The World Series hangover is only just beginning for some of us but the end of the baseball season means the start of the postseason so free agency has begun for all 30 teams and the postseason awards are swiftly upon us.
Altuve (r): Topping Judge for MVP?
(c) Michael Giaglo/Houston Chronicle
Five Astros filed for free agency and I don't expect any of them to be back with the team in 2018, at least in the same capacity they had before. 40-year-old Carlos Beltran might have been a great story but his numbers at DH did not justify a $16 million salary. His leadership of the Latin stars on the club was important for 2017 but, going forward, the maturity has been earned. If he wants to join the coaching ranks, I'm sure Jeff Luhnow can find him a spot but, otherwise, Beltran deserves to ride off into the sunset elsewhere.
The other four free agents, OF Cameron Maybin and relievers Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano and Tyler Clippard are all expected to carry too high a price tag for the roles they might have in Houston. Three of them were late-season acquisitions to help with the stretch run.
Two players had club options which the Astros quickly picked up. All-everything Jose Altuve ($6 million) and play-everywhere Marwin Gonzalez ($5.125 million) are both incredible bargains for what they've blossomed into. Altuve, of course, led the American League in batting average by a wide margin and Gonzalez led the ballclub in RBIs among the other things they did incredibly well. One of the stories this winter is whether the Astros will be magnanimous and re-work Altuve's contract to pay him more according to his worth to the club.
Jose is one of three finalists for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, which will be revealed this coming week. Either Altuve or New York rookie Aaron Judge should take home the hardware. Houston skipper A.J. Hinch is a finalist again for the A.L. Manager of the Year Award.
Altuve and World Series MVP George Springer have already been named to the 2017 Silver Slugger Award team. Gold Gloves for fielding excellence are also coming soon with Springer and pitcher Dallas Keuchel among the likely headliners.
Bench coach Alex Cora was tabbed as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. Luhnow wasted no time in naming Joe Espada as his replacement. Espada was the third-base coach for the Yankees during the past three seasons and had the same title with the Miami Marlins before that.
Matrimonial congratulations are in order to Carlos Correa and Justin Verlander. Condolences sent to the friends and family of future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Roy Halladay.
With so many roles for the 2018 Astros already won and the expectation that the arbitration candidates will work their way out (Keuchel, Springer, Ken Giles, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers, Brad Peacock, Evan Gattis and Jake Marisnick), the off-season should be a relatively quiet one but we will document it all for you here as news develop.
Finally, a few words of advice. The temptation will be to rush right out and buy up a bunch of 2017 Astros World Champion merchandise and memorabilia. The longer you wait, the more prices will come down and things like caps, t-shirts and DVDs ought to be on your Christmas wish list anyway so you can fill in the blanks in your wardrobe after New Years Day. Make sure family members have your sizes up to date (that includes lady fans as men are notoriously bad guessers when it comes to women's sizes). Think about donating some of your older Astros gear to the many unfortunates who lost everything during Harvey and are still trying to put their lives back in order.
- Bob Hulsey