Don't Expect Shopping Spree From Astros
World Champs Need Only Tweak Roster

Peacock: Time to 'sell high'?
(c) Associated Press
While this is the unofficial top spending week of the year (the post Thanksgiving Christmas shopping rush), the World Champion Astros are not expected to be big spenders this winter. The truth is, most of their energies will be spent getting their arbitration cases signed for 2018 after many had big years in their run for the title.

Three players - pitcher Brad Peacock, utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and outfielder Jake Marisnick - either turned in career years or signaled a major upswing in their career paths.

Prior to 2017, Peacock had compiled an 11-17 mark with a 4.57 ERA over parts of five big league seasons. However, he posted a 13-2 record with a 3.00 ERA in 2017. Contrast the 132 innings he had against the 131.2 innings he had with the Astros in 2014 (4-9, 4.72 ERA), and one can clearly see a vast improvement.

The righthander turns 30 before next season begins. Would you bet on him repeating his performance or is he a better bet to regress back to what he had been up to last year? This winter is his first year of arbitration so he won't break the bank either way. He might, however, be a good "sell high" candidate in trade discussions.

Gonzalez blossomed into the best utility player since Ben Zobrist in 2017. He's capable of playing all over the diamond. Although posting fewer at bats than in 2016, the switch-hitter had a monster season - .303 average, 23 homers, 90 RBIs and a .907 OPS. His previous career highs for one season were .279, 13, 51 and .759 respectively.

Despite a crucial home run in the World Series, Marwin fell off in the postseason (11-for-61, .180). His contract option for 2018 has already been picked up for $5.125 million so he should be well worth keeping around. 2019 might be a different story depending on whether his numbers fall back to the mean or continue at last year's pace.

Marisnick missed out on his chance for the postseason when he tore his thumb sliding into a base on September 13th. A career .225 hitter with a .607 OPS before 2017, Marisnick hit .243 and blasted 16 homers with an .815 OPS in just 230 at bats in 2017. Like Gonzalez, his defensive wizardry and versatility are worth keeping him around but he has the chance to work his way into the everyday lineup this year with the left field spot unsettled.

At 27, Jake is just entering the usual prime years for batters and he will just be going through his first year of arbitration so he'll stay around at least until Derek Fisher or Kyle Tucker take his place. I expect him to be a trade candidate in 2019 or 2020.

So, where was I? Oh, yes. Shopping. Sifting through the Astros roster now transitions to keeping most of their assets around until it becomes advantageous to move them. The question becomes whether guys like Peacock, Gonzalez and Marisnick can sustain their excellence from this past campaign or if the Astros were blessed to have three guys perform well over their heads in the same year.

For stars like MVP Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Series MVP George Springer and ace Dallas Keuchel, the challenge is to keep them satisfied and compensated during their peak years. For veterans like Brian McCann and Justin Verlander, the problem becomes squeezing performance from them before they become a contract albatross. For the others, it is a matter of assessing their worth in the coming years and choosing when best to cut the cord and deal them for new prospects or to fill needs.

Other than some bullpen help and possibly some catching depth, the Astros have no needs they can't fill internally. Rather than trying to land a DH to replace Carlos Beltran or acquire a "third ace" this winter, I think the Astros should largely stand pat and give their minor leaguers a chance to fill the roster openings. Then, if none pan out, the Astros can make a few moves at the trade deadline to make a playoff surge if needed.

This may be the last year the Astros can enjoy a below-market team payroll before the stars begin demanding more money. A payroll in the $120-130 million range is not only doable, I think it is preferable to hold back this winter until needs become apparent.

Houston made three roster moves the past two weeks, two were to add pitchers to the 40-man roster and thus protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Lefthander Cionel Perez and righthander Dean Deetz were promoted. The squad later placed catcher Juan Centeno on waivers to remove him from the 40-man. Centeno can be claimed by another team, opt for free agency or sign to return to AAA Fresno.

The Astros also made a minor league trade, dealing outfielder Ramon Laureano to Oakland for pitcher Brandon Bailey.

- Bob Hulsey