Astros Week: Baker to Return, Awards Season is Upon Us

Dusty Baker (left) and owner Jim Crane are working on an extension for the manager.
Dusty Baker (left) and owner Jim Crane are working on an extension for the manager. Photo by Jack Gorman
Let's be honest, we could probably just write here "THE ASTROS WON THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES, Y'ALL!" and that would be enough for Astros Week. But, it is important to realize that in addition to basking in the afterglow of another championship, this is also the first week of the offseason and a LOT is happening.

So, let's dig into things and see what's happening now that the confetti has fallen and the champagne has been popped.

Not surprisingly, Dusty Baker will return as manager.

Baker, 73, just capped his already incredible career with a World Series win. But, he has said if he won one, he'd want to come back for another and, apparently, he will get his wish. Reports out on Tuesday have him re-signing with the Astros, probably on another one-year deal, to return as skipper. It's a good move for the Astros to keep the continuity in the clubhouse and dugout.

Somewhat surprisingly, James Click might return as GM.

Rumors over the last month were pretty clear: Jim Crane didn't want Click to return. Following the World Series, new reports are saying Click could return if he and Crane can reach an agreement since the GM remains unsigned. Click has been here since 2019 and has presided over tremendous success, but his moves at trade deadlines have been suspect and it is widely thought that many of the scouting and front office staff, who are holdovers from Jeff Lunhow's tenure, do the bulk of the heavy lifting. No doubt we'll see some adjustments in the approach in 2023 if he returns. Regardless, with winter meetings rapidly approaching, someone has to GM, right?

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Justin Verlander will win the AL Cy Young Award on November 16.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Plenty of Astros on awards shortlists.

We found out during the postseason that Jeremy Peña became the first rookie shortstop to win a Gold Glove and Kyle Tucker picked up his first Gold Glove as well. But there could be more hardware on the horizon for their teammates.

The most obvious is Justin Verlander, who will win the AL Cy Young Award when it is announced  November 16. He could even be a unanimous selection. Yordan Alvarez is a finalist for AL MVP, though that will almost certainly go to Yankee center fielder Aaron Judge after his historic year at the plate.

The only surprise is that Peña wasn't on the finalist list for Rookie of the Year, which is a virtual lock for Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

Free agency is underway.

My colleague has a good breakdown of Astros free agents and we'll dig into those in the weeks to come. But, for now, suffice it to say it will be a busy hot stove season for the Astros. They have nearly $65 million available under the luxury tax assuming they don't re-sign Verlander to a huge deal. Even if they extend Tucker, they could make a run at some solid names to plug the VERY few holes they had, particularly at the plate. Stay tuned.

Jeff Balke covers the Astros and Rockets weekly for the Houston Press and co-hosts the Bleav in Astros podcast with former third baseman and current Astros broadcaster Geoff Blum. Follow him on Twitter.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke