In truth, the Astros falling apart this season should be no surprise. It was foretold during the offseason when the Astros made no real attempt to improve their offense, instead re-signing Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis to rather inexplicable deals, hoping that, in 2016, they would hit better than they ever had before.
The Astros offense isn’t one that can compete over a complete season — it’s too much akin to the Rockets offense that depended on the team hitting three point shots without having any players that could consistently shoot behind the arc. Sure the Astros had Jose Altuve, a hit machine who will likely be the greatest player in team history. Then add in Carlos Correa and George Springer, and the Astros have power, speed, and the ability to get on base. Unfortunately those guys only compose one-third of the batting order, and the rest of the lineup, quite frankly, sucks.
So it’s time for the Astros to rethink a few things. Carlos Gomez is gone, and it’s time to cut bait on Rasmus and Gattis. And while it’s too early to give up on the likes of Alex Bregman, Tyler White, A.J. Reed and Preston Tucker, it’s also time for the Astros to cast about for actual, proven major league talent who can contribute on a nightly basis. Luckily for GM Jeff Luhnow and the guys, I have a few suggestions.
Let’s start with Carlos Beltran. There was talk before this season started that Beltran, the former Astro, was considering retiring. But if he decides to keep playing, then the Astros should be flooding Beltran and his agent with calls and emails, doing everything possible to get the future Hall of Famer back into a Houston uniform. He’s the ideal DH candidate: he still hits for power while consistently getting on base (unlike Gattis) and he’s still serviceable in the outfield, and could play out there on occasion spotting the corner outfielders, or starting there when the Astros play in a National League city and lose the services of the DH.
Then the Astros should consider the guy they should have considered at the 2015 trade deadline, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has been one of the most dynamic players in major league baseball since signing with the A’s after defecting from Cuba. He hits for power, has speed on the bases and is a decent defensive outfielder. Cespedes is technically under contract with the New York Mets for two more seasons after this one, having signed a three-year deal last offseason. But Cespedes also negotiated a deal that allows him to opt out of that contract once this season ends. Cespedes would also offer up the same type of excitement that Carlos Gomez was supposed to, including some of the most epic bat flips in the game. (Not that it will happen, but a guy like Cespedes could possibly be a nice addition to have around when helping countryman Yulieski Gurriel adjust to life in the majors).
There are also a couple of other names the Astros might want to consider who are free agents after this season. Primarily Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista, possessor of the best bat flip in baseball — and someone who really pisses off Texas Rangers players and fans — and Toronto outfielder/infielder/DH Edwin Encarnacion. Both players are aging quickly — Bautista is 35. Bautista has had a disappointing season, especially for a guy about to enter free agency, so the Astros could get him cheaper than his price would have been last season.
But if experience is any kind of guide, then it’s doubtful the Astros will go after any of those players — there’s too big a record of success that comes with them. That appears to be a no-no for a team that seems focused on failures, rejects and reclamation projects like Rasmus and Gattis. Which means the Astros will find a way to acquire Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers appear to have given up on Puig, and he seems to be just the type of career under-performer who can go off on a hot streak that the Astros love, just like Rasmus, Gomez and Gattis. And since it’s quite possible the Astros won’t have to give up too much to bring in Puig — there’s no way they'd pay as much as the team did for Gomez — this is probably a deal that will happen.
This season’s not yet over, though. Perhaps there’ll be a miracle of some kind and the Astros will find a way to make the playoffs. But the only recent team the Astros have really been able to defeat has been the pathetic Minnesota Twins. And with the Cardinals, Orioles and Pirates coming up, things just don’t look promising.
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