2017 has been a year to beat the odds. Houston wins the World Series about as often as it snows in the Rio Grande Valley. 5-5 players win a league MVP award about as often as LCS MVPs are available at the August 31st trade deadline. Don't blink. Something astonishing may happen.
(c) Sports Illustrated
It's with this backdrop that the Astros, principally General Manager Jeff Luhnow, head to this week's Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Despite their bluster, the Astros were quickly left out of the running on acquiring Japanese star Shohei Ohtani although he has a good chance of landing in the American League West. The Rangers, Angels and Mariners are among the seven teams on Ohtani's wish list and each has stockpiled international bonus cap money in their pursuit of the lefty pitcher/slugger.
Fans dreaming of adding NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton can still dream, though, as Houston is rumored to be on the list of teams Stanton would okay in a trade. Derek Jeter's Marlins, however, have focused on the Cardinals and Giants as likeliest trade partners and the pricetag to acquire Stanton will not be painless.
Two MVP's in one lineup? Sort of like two Houston Heroes named as co-Sportspersons of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine yet there are Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt on the cover. Congratulations to both and well-deserved.
Luhnow's more immediate focus will be bullpen help since he's lost Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano and Tyler Clippard in free agency. The bullpen was shaky during the postseason run and particularly from the left side where Tony Sipp is the remaining southpaw. Expect the Astros to court available arms Mike Minor, Tony Watson and Jake McGee in no particular order. Relievers Zach Britton and Brad Hand could also be available in trades.
Luhnow would like to add another starter although it is hard to find room when you consider they just let Mike Fiers go and they have six potential starters now, excluding new faces from the minors. After the success of free agent signees Doug Fister (2016) and Charlie Morton (2017), the Astros would like to continue their trend of taking a pitcher coming off a bad year and giving them a new lease on life. Morton signed a two-year deal and will be back in 2018.
Some fans wish to add a slugger to replace retired Carlos Beltran in the designated hitter role. I'd rather see Evan Gattis return to that role and platooned with one of many lefty-hitting candidates within our farm system like A.J. Reed, Colin Moran, Derek Fisher or Preston Tucker. If none pan out by July, then a veteran can be added at the trade deadline.
Houston has two openings on the 40-man roster and it is possible but unlikely that the Astros could participate in the Rule 5 draft coming up later in the week. More likely is that some other team will snatch a player from our farm system that we couldn't protect.
Don't be alarmed if the Astros do little at this year's meetings. The World Champs have very few needs and plenty of time before February. Still, this has been a year where conventional wisdom has taken a beating.
- Bob Hulsey