While Houston Astros fans are pouting about not making any moves during the Winter Meetings, Jeff Luhnow is seeking upgrades.
We know that the Astros are looking at adding a bat and starting pitcher. Fans are dreaming of adding Bryce Harper and Corey Kluber, but maybe they need to aim a little lower. Whom will the Astros add? That probably changes day to day with discussions between the two parties trying to get the best deal.
We have discussed two names often on Talking Stros this offseason. There have been rumors that the Astros have had interest in them at various points of the offseason. Today, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Astros were interested in signing not one bat, but possibly two of them for 2019 and beyond.
A Designated Hitter.
One is a natural fit in the Carlos Beltran like role in the 38-year-old Nelson Cruz. While his production has dropped a little, he still is an impact bat in the middle of the lineup. He batted .256 with 37 homers and 97 RBI in his 11th season via Baseball-Reference. People will mostly remember him from playing with the Rangers and the Mariners. He would fill the DH spot in the order and would add some pop to the roster.
With him being 38, it’s hard seeing the Astros go longer than one year. What if 2019 is the year that Cruz slows down? The team would be on the hook for 2020 for a player not worthy of the deal. Could the Astros entice him with a one-year deal with a vesting option should he reach “x” at-bats or other achievements? Cruz is probably holding out for that second year. Otherwise, he would have signed by now.
The second player is Michael Brantley, who would be an impact lefty in the batting order. He is coming off one of his best seasons where he batted .309 with 17 homers and 76 RBI via Baseball-Reference. He added 12 stolen bases and played more than 90 games for the first time in the last three years. In 143 games last year, he showed that he was healthy again and primed for a big-time contrast.
Unfortunately, the injury history would raise some red flags, giving teams pause on investing too much time or money into signing him. The Astros would probably like to sign him for two years, but he could want 3-4 years. Brantley is 31-years-old so he could be looking at his final opportunity for a long-term deal. If this is a possibility, the Astros will have to capitalize on the fact that Brantley could play first base.
Rosenthal mentioned this as a way to allow Yuli Gurriel to move around the diamond. They also have high hopes for Kyle Tucker, so this would open some playing time. Rosenthal also mentioned that they could be looking to trade Josh Reddick. Cruz would add power to the lineup and Brantley would add an all-around bat. This would lengthen the lineup to increase offensive production.
Whether this happens or not, rest assured that they are doing what they can. Trading Reddick may be a mistake, but they may not have playing time to pass around. If these two are signed, Marwin Gonzalez will go from 5% chance of returning down to 0%. Adding another starting pitcher would top their to do list, but they also need to look at adding another catcher.
What do you think?