The hot stove league is promising to be a rather complicated one for Major League Baseball. In a pandemic-shortened season, revenues were down dramatically and there is still uncertainty about the 2021 season with no guarantees of a vaccine in time for spring training.
For the Astros, financial uncertainties mirror what they are facing on the field with a number of areas that will need to be addressed, some of significance. Let's break down what has happened so far.
Roberto Osuna generated plenty of controversy when he was acquired by the Astros in 2018. His suspension for alleged domestic assault haunted him and the Astros throughout his short tenure here. Not only was he routinely criticized on social media, but his very presence led to a clubhouse incident that got an Astros exec fired for remarks made to female reporters. It was an ugly chapter for the Astros that ended with Osuna's injury after just four appearances in 2020.
Springer given qualifying offer, but not Brantley.
George Springer was given his expected one-year $18.9 million qualifying offer by the team, which he was almost certainly decline. The team can still negotiate a long-term deal with the home-grown center fielder, but there is a good chance his price tag will be too steep. Michael Brantley, the team's most consistent hitter the last two seasons, was not given a qualifying offer, no doubt due to his age and lingering financial concerns. Josh Reddick, the third player to start the season in the outfield is an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. With the emergence of Kyle Tucker, the Astros will have only one outfielder on the roster if Springer and Brantley, as expected, move on. If Springer does sign with another team, the Astros will get a compensatory pick after the fourth round, which wouldn't hurt given they lost their two first round picks in the sign stealing scandal.
Devenski, Garneau and De Jong clear waivers.
Circle of Death reliever Chris Devenski along with reliever Chase De Jong and back up catcher Justin Garneau, cleared waivers this week. De Jong and Garneau were only with the team for 2020, but Devenski played a pivotal role until the last two seasons when his numbers fell off dramatically. His injury this season effectively ended his career as an Astro. He'll be best known for his circle change up (nicknamed the Circle of Death) and his swagger walk on and off the mound.
Veteran lefty reliever Brooks Raley had his $2 million option picked up by the team. Raley was outstanding in 2020 as a high leverage reliever and will help, along with Ryan Pressly, to stabilize a young bullpen that includes Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor. Joe Smith, who opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, should return as well, but the Astros will be in search of more relief arms going forward.
Javier ROY finalist.
Christian Javier, who was one of the Astros best starters in 2020, was named a finalist for Rookie of the Year. Javier, who was about as cool and steady as is possible for a rookie, emerged this season after going from single A to the majors in two years. Concerns over the aging lineup and the loss of Justin Verlander were quickly squelched with the performance of Javier and other young pitchers who rose quickly through the ranks of the Astros system.
Hinch lands in Detroit.
The final story to be written about A.J. Hinch in Houston was closed when he signed with Detroit as announced last Friday. Hinch, who sat out 2020 due to an MLB suspension, will join Verlander's former team and try to revive that franchise. While there have been reports that more allegations about sign stealing are still to be revealed from 2017, it is clear that the league has moved on from its issues with Hinch, especially because he mostly came clean about his involvement and apologized. He is still considered one of the league's brightest managers.