Offseason Tracker and Analysis: Houston Astros

With all the sign-stealing allegations they’re dealing with, not to mention their recent World Series loss and the departure of ace Gerrit Cole, the Astros aren’t exactly trending in a positive direction right now. Still, they’re likely the favorite to win it all last season, and though they have little financial flexibility, have very few holes to fill this offseason; a catcher and pitching depth would be definitely helpful, still.

Expected Direction: Adding Depth To Complement Their Surplus of Talent

Astros Sign C Dustin Garneau

garneau
Photo Cred: Athletics Nation

Contract Details: One Year, $650K ($75K In Incentives)

Grade: 8.5/10

In a very small signing to add some catching depth, the Astros have agreed to a one-year contract, worth less than $1 million, with catcher Dustin Garneau. Garneau, 32, has just 381 career plate appearances, but has spent 10 seasons with four organizations, most recently the Angels and A’s. He’s had minor-league success throughout his career, but has never gotten much of a chance in the majors, for some reason. In 101 plate appearances last season, he posted a 108 wrc+ and .350 on-base percentage (OBP), while accumulating a 0.7 WAR- impressive in a very small sample size. Notably, he’s a slightly above-average defender behind the plate, and considering that his offense is acceptable, he at least figures to be a serviceable backup option. Obviously, there isn’t a risk with a contract of this magnitude, and as long as he can stick in the majors, he’ll an excellent depth signing, given how cheap he’ll be. This almost certainly won’t be the last attempt Houston makes to shore up the catcher position.

Astros Trade OF Jake Marisnick To Mets

marisnick
Photo Cred: Amazin’ Avenue

Full Trade: Astros Trade OF Jake Marisnick To Mets In Exchange For LHP Blake Taylor and OF Kenedy Corona

Grade: 8.5/10

As they look to shed some salary ($3 million), the Astros have cut into some of their outfield depth, sending Jake Marisnick to the Mets in exchange for pitching prospect Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona. Marisnick, 28, filled an important role as a strong defender that was great in a fourth outfield spot, but with top prospect Kyle Tucker on his way up and Houston in the midst of salary crisis, there wasn’t room for him to remain on the team. To that end, it was unlikely they’d get much for just a year of Marisnick, but in the 24-year-old Taylor, they’re getting a pitcher that was very successful in the minor leagues last season, and could carve a role in the majors for them if needed. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Corona is an unknown, but he fared well in rookie ball last season- Houston isn’t getting great prospects, but a solid return for Marisnick.

Astros Re-Sign RP Joe Smith

joesmith
Photo Cred: sports.yahoo.com

Contract Details: Two Years, $8 Million

Grade: 9/10

In an attempt to shore up a bullpen that’ll almost certainly be without Will Harris, the Astros have re-signed reliever Joe Smith to a two-year contract worth $8 million. Smith, 35, has been a very reliable reliever throughout his career, and that remained the case last season. Upon returning from a torn Achilles, he posted a 3.72 FIP in 25 innings pitched, which came with a strong 4.40 K-BB ratio. On the negative side, he did allow hard contact at an alarming 46.4% rate last season, but that came in a limited sample size, and he generally suppresses hard contact. Considering that the Astros are on in a financial crisis at the moment, they need to find as many effective low-cost options to fill needs as possible, and Smith provides that for their bullpen.

Astros Re-Sign C Martin Maldonado

maldonado
Photo Cred: MLB – NBC Sports

Contract Details: Two Years, $7 Million

Grade: 7/10

Considering that they have zero financial flexibility, it was going to be difficult for the Astros to do much to fix their hole at catcher. Therefore, they almost certainly won’t bring back Robinson Chirinos, but they have re-signed Martin Maldonado on a two-year contract worth $7 million. Houston has had a great admiration for Maldonado over the past two seasons, as they’ve acquired him midseason in both of those years. In fact, this will be the 33-year-old’s first season in which he started the year with the club, and he’ll have to complete a major task- bring some catching stability to a World Series contender. With the Royals, Cubs, and Astros last season, Maldonado regressed significantly, posting a 0.8 fWAR. Notably, this is the third straight season in which his WAR has decreased by more than 1, as because he brings little offensive value, he’s forced to be an elite defender. The problem is, his framing has declined since his 2017 Gold Glove season; he’s not exactly a starting-caliber catcher. Perhaps he isn’t Houston’s solution to fixing their catching situation, but even then, I don’t like this deal for them- Alex Avila, a far superior team, signed for just $1 million more in AAV and for one less year.

*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Astros Make

 

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