Free agency officially began in Major League Baseball this past Sunday, and with labor strife possibly looming for the sport upon expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on December 1, this will be one of the more intriguing free agency seasons in recent history. Will teams try their best to get deals in before December arrives, or will they play it conservatively and see what the new landscape yields in the next CBA?
It should be fascinating, and the Houston Astros' decision making process will be under intense scrutiny from Astros fans, given some of the big names and prominent pieces of recent playoff teams that will be turned loose in the wild that is MLB free agency. Along those lines, there are seven 2021 Houston Astros headed to free agency this week. Here are my estimates on the chances of each one returning to the Astros in 2022:
CARLOS CORREA, SS
We devoted an entire post earlier this week to the chances of Correa remaining an Astro. To sum it up, the odds are not good. Not good at all, my friends. The Astros made a very responsible (but woefully inadequate) 5 year, $160 million offer, considering that Correa is looking for a ten year deal. Honestly, I get the Astros' thinking, and if there was ever clarity on the code they are living by, i.e. "we will not overpay for the back end of someone's career, even if it's one of our homegrown guys," it comes from the handling of Correa. The real test will be what happens with Jose Altuve's twilight years in a couple seasons, but for now, we know this — there are no scraps in Jim Crane's scrapbook.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of CORREA returning in 2022:
JUSTIN VERLANDER. SP
Verlander got a two-year, $66 million extension back in 2019 for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The Astros got a total of six innings for that $66 million, as Verlander needed Tommy John surgery after one start in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The Astros made the qualifying offer of one year, $18.4 million over the weekend. I'd be surprised if Verlander didn't command more than that, but his market might be the biggest wild card of the offseason. If Verlander still wants to chase rings, then anchoring the top of a rotation with Lance McCullers and the young arms here might be in the cards. Still, I think the favorite for Verlander is a reunion with A.J. Hinch and the city of Detroit, playing for the Tigers.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of VERLANDER returning in 2022:
ZACK GREINKE, SP
Overall, the Astros probably got what they expected out of the two-plus seasons they got out of Greinke. They got him at the tail end of his upper tier chops, and it would appear that, while Greinke still absolutely has a place in a big league rotation, it's probably as a fourth starter for a good team, or an experienced second starter for any other team. Unlike with Verlander, the Astros did not make the qualifying offer of one year, $18.4 million to Greinke.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of GREINKE returning in 2022:
KENDALL GRAVEMAN, RP
Graveman came over from Seattle at the trade deadline, and when he arrived he was leading the AL in ERA. The Astros experienced some of his inevitable regression to the mean, but still, Graveman was a valuable piece of the bullpen, as the eighth inning setup guy to Ryan Pressly. With just one year remaining on Pressly's deal, I could see signing Graveman to a top of market setup guy contract for multiple years, and perhaps becoming the closer in 2023, much like Pressly's taking over once Roberto Osuna was no longer available.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of GRAVEMAN returning in 2022:
YIMI GARCIA, RP
I would say similar things about Garcia as I did Graveman above. Garcia was much shakier in the regular season than Graveman was, but he may have been the team's best reliever in the postseason. Dusty Baker has great trust in Garcia, and with Baker back for another season, maybe that ups the urgency in bringing back Garcia on a reasonable deal.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of GARCIA returning in 2022:
BROOKS RALEY, RP
Raley is another Dusty favorite, who might be a very economical option as a situational lefty arm. As long as the market is "bargain bin," I could see Raley back for another season in Houston.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of RALEY returning in 2022:
MARWIN GONZALEZ, UTIL
To be clear, I think the Astros should sign Marwin to a lifetime contract just to have him in the dugout. He doesn't even have to be an active Major League Baseball player. He's just Marwin, and I love having him around. I doubt he is back, mostly because Carlos Correa was the catalyst for bringing him in, and we know the odds on Carlos' return. So let's put Marwin's odds at the same as Carlos' odds.
PERCENTAGE CHANCE of GONZALEZ returning in 2022:
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