Sports

Baseball is Back! Four Thoughts on What The Astros Do Now

Few are happier about the end to the lockout than free agent Carlos Correa.
Few are happier about the end to the lockout than free agent Carlos Correa. Photo by Jack Gorman
It took 99 days (insert 99 problems joke here) for Major League Baseball's owners and players to finally agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, but it is finally done and we can get on to actual games, praise the ghost of Lou Gehrig.

It was a contentious and ugly three-plus months of negotiations, but thankfully that is over and it appears we will get a full schedule of 162 games despite the time off. Now, the interesting part. Free agency opens immediately, the Rule 5 draft has to happen, and teams are going to have to scramble to get training camps together and players signed.

Which brings us to the Astros. What exactly do they need to do as they hit the ground, no doubt sprinting out of the gate. We have some thoughts.

Decide on what to do about Carlos Correa.

In truth, that decision may be made for them. Correa has long said he wants a deal that is long (9 or 10 years) and big ($300 million-plus). As a matter of principle, the Astros just don't give those kinds of contracts to players and, philosophically, they are on the right side of history here. Players given those kinds of massive, long contracts have rarely performed up to the amount spent. Even as young as Correa is, the odds of someone who has been oft-injured become the best player in baseball for a decade are slim.

Correa is the biggest name in free agency, so he will likely be off the market quickly. If he doesn't return, that will allow the Astros to turn their sights on other options as soon as possible.

Address the holes in the lineup.

Speaking of, if Correa does leave via free agency, there are not a ton of options at short stop. Aledmys Diaz would be first up, but he isn't really meant to be an everyday starter. His role as utility man and pinch hitter is valuable. Do the Astros, perhaps, go with a youngster like Jeremy Peña? Could they make a veteran signing as well?

But that's only for short. They could use another outfielder, especially since Jake Meyers will not start the season after injuring his shoulder in the playoffs. And even with the signing of veteran reliever Hector Neris, they could still use some bullpen arms, particularly a lefty. They will definitely have needs to fill and a compressed time in which to make that happen.
Figure out how to handle your pitching rotation.

It is conceivable Lance McCullers, Jr. is not available for opening day. The Astros will not rush him, nor should they. The team has a lot of starting caliber arms to work with, all of which now have experience, unlike the last couple seasons. With Justin Verlander back (and fired up - see Tweet), that will help, but the team must also weigh when and how to use JV. It was a shortened spring training that, in part, led to the injury that cost him two seasons. The staff will undoubtedly handle him with care knowing he will be an absolutely necessity in the postseason.

Do right by the fans.

We aren't exactly sure what they need to do, but they made everyone wait and sweat while the teams and players whittled over hundreds of millions of dollars. Time to be creative so the wait was worth it.
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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