Jason Lyons

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Will Kyle Tucker get his opportunity with the Astros?

Will Kyle Tucker get his opportunity with the Astros?

If you’ve followed the Houston Astros for the past two or three years, you’re probably aware of who the elite prospects in the system are. You probably know about how prospects tend to project, how fast they tend to excel through the system, even if every player excels at different speeds, and how lenient the organization tends to be, especially with top tier, blue chip, players. They give opportunity after opportunity for players to succeed, because frankly, graduating from the Triple-A level to the Major leagues isn’t easy, and a lot of players need time to adjust.


A.J. Reed, Derek Fisher, Francis Martes, J.D. Davis, Colin Moran. These are all names in the past few years that have been given a chance after chance to adjust the Majors. There are plenty of others, but these players, in particular, have had three or four shots at improving their stock and showing they’re capable of playing at the highest level, but haven’t yet reached their potential, and quite frankly might be running out of opportunities.

Colin Moran was traded last offseason for Gerrit Cole, along with other players, but even before the transaction, he had been given multiple shots to prove his worth. The Astros are great at evaluating talent and knowing what they have. Now, not everything will pan out. As it's been said many times, “baseball is hard.” It’s a tough sport. It may be the toughest sport, and things don’t always work out for players trying to break in, but the Astros don’t give up easily.

So, should we give up on Tucker?

Repetition is key when writing about Tucker, personally, and It can’t be said enough. Tucker has not spent enough time at the Major League level for everyone to completely give up on him. A first-round draft pick out of H.B. Plant high school, Tucker has excelled at every level he has played at. In rookie league Greeneville he hit .286. At Quad Cities, he hit .276. At Lancaster, he hit .339. At Buies Creek, he hit .288.

At Corpus Christi, he hit .265, and in his last stop at Fresno, he hit .332. In four total minor league seasons, he had 433 hits, 61 home runs, 285 RBI’s, 97 doubles, 17 triples, an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .849. Folks that may be the minor leagues, but as it was stated earlier, “Baseball is hard.” It’s hard to put up these numbers at any level, and Tucker has. The past two seasons he’s won the organization’s player of the year award, and it wasn’t because he’s an average player. He’s earned the nickname, “Ted,” for a reason.

Why shouldn’t we give up on him?

There’re a few reasons why Kyle Tucker is here to stay. Now it’s unfair to write this and not talk about his struggles. To not acknowledge them would be silly. He had a bad time his first go round. He didn’t hit. He played the outfield lackadaisically. He didn’t seem like he was ready for the big dance, and hey, many guys aren’t. However, it’s also unfair, knowing what we know about how the Astros handle prospects, to pretend that his entire minor league tenure is just complete rubbish.

Yes, the Major Leagues are different. Yes, there’s an adjustment that most players need to make. Many adjustments, if one can say that. Tucker played twenty-eight games for Houston. Sixty-four at-bats. Sixty-four. How can anyone look at his history, look at the Astros and how successful they’ve been molding prospects, look at seventy-two plate appearances, and think that Tucker is done, and the Astros are done with him as well. It doesn’t make sense. There’s a reason why they weren’t even discussing his name until recently in trade talks. Granted, he has been mentioned in a few lately, but it’s been for elite players. J.T. Realmuto, Noah Syndergaard, etc.

He won’t get dealt

Even in the talks with Miami, and New York, the price is still too high. If the Astros wanted to trade Tucker, they would’ve done it by now. If there were any doubt about how he plays or how he’s going to turn out, they would’ve shipped him off to another team. He’s still valued. Tucker is still number five on the top 100 prospects list for all of baseball.

Twenty-eight games aren’t enough to accurately judge how a player’s career is going to turn out, and the Astros know that. We’re all outsiders looking in, trying to make our best judgment on if he should stay or not, but there’s a reason Tucker is going to be playing in 2019 for the Astros, and it’s not because a deal couldn’t be found for him, because there are plenty of teams who’d want him. The Astros believe in Kyle Tucker, and so should we.

**All Stats Courtesy of baseball-reference.com and MLB.Com*

A Look at the Reasons Why the Astros Are Not Trading Whitley

How valuable is Forrest Whitley?

The Houston Astros over the past two seasons have made some pretty big moves to bolster the team. It’s always nice to root for a team that’s not afraid to make a splash, whether that be from signing a free agent or making a push for a blockbuster trade. The Astros have consistently shown they aren’t afraid to make moves to improve.

However, they’ve also made it know they won’t compromise from their central beliefs that a good farm system is necessary to form a winning ballclub continually. Meaning; they’re not going to give up just anyone at any time if they feel they don’t need to, and they’re not going to give up on players whom they feel are going to be superstars at the Major League level.

Kyle Tucker’s stock

One player who has been mentioned time and time again is Kyle Tucker. The lanky outfielder was taken fifth overall in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, made his debut in July of last year, and did not impress. He had nine hits in 72 plate appearances, a batting average of .141, and an on-base percentage of .236. Somewhere, Mario Mendoza is smiling.

Apart from his offensive numbers though, Tucker seemed to lack a sense of urgency when he played the outfield. He seemed out of it at times, and while he will still be a rookie in 2019, his name is now being mentioned in trade rumors, when before he was not. The Marlins have asked about Tucker, and the Astros ears are perking up unlike before.

So what about Forrest Whitley?

Tucker was mentioned because he and Whitley have been grouped together for years as two prospects that the Astros will not trade. However, with the price for Tucker dropping, and Whitley only getting better (36 K’s in 26 innings in the Arizona fall league). Whitley is more valuable than he ever has been, even after being suspended 50 games this season for violating Minor League Baseball’s drug policy. Most recently he was asked about by the Seattle Mariners in discussions for their former ace James Paxton.

The Astros answer? Flat out refusal, as reported by Jon Morosi.

James Paxton was then shipped to the New York Yankees for their number one overall prospect, Justus Sheffield. Jeff Luhnow commented and said, "I can't imagine what it's like to be these guys, every day they read rumors out in the media — whether they're true or not — that they may be getting traded for this player or that player," "We've said from the beginning, Whitley's not going anywhere except to Houston at some point in the near future.”

Is Holding onto Forrest Whitley Worth it?

From all accounts, Whitley is a special player. Looking back at his initial draft pick profile, you’ll see Whitley boasts some impressive pitches that have only continued to improve. Standing at six foot seven, his fastball gets on you quick at 92-97 miles per hours with a little cut on it. He throws a nasty curve that he can also turn into a slider, and his changeup makes hitters look foolish. A simple over the top delivery, easily flowing towards home plate, but hiding the ball well, he keeps hitters on their toes all game long.

He’s had 203 strikeouts in roughly two minor league seasons. Not to mention he has the stature and poise of an Ace, and he hasn’t even reached AAA. There’s a reason The Astros are so keen on keeping him. He has the stuff that can dominate for a long time as a number one starter, and that’s rare to come by.

Is 2019 the year?

Only time will tell when Forrest Whitley will make his much-anticipated debut. The way he’s pitched, and shown he can navigate lineups, he could very well start the season in AAA and make his presence known in Houston by late June, early July, and if the offseason doesn’t go the way the Astros hope, they could be looking at two-three spots truly unfilled in the rotation.

Everyone Astros fan is anxiously waiting and watching for this stud to continue to excel, and for him to take his place along with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the rotation. Whitley will only help our chances of winning another World Series Championship, and that is the reason he is untouchable.

**All Stats Courtesy of ThreePitchStrikeout, MiLB.com, Baseball-reference, USA Today, Chron.com.**

Top 30 MLB Free Agent Predictions (Part One)

It’s been a little over a month since the 2018 season ended, and while the stoves at home may be revving up for the holidays, the stove for transactions in Major League Baseball has been initially very cold. Frankly, it’s to be expected, because the winter meetings don’t start until December, and that’s usually when moves start happening pretty rapidly. However, that doesn’t stop fans from speculating while the General Managers are deliberating, so why not make a list of predictions for the top thirty free agents on the market.

1.Bryce Harper:

Whether you want to put Harper at the top of this list or Manny Machado, they’re pretty much interchangeable as far as contracts go. Both will command roughly 30 million dollars a year, if not more. Harper had a rough first half but contributed to a sub-par Nationals team in the second half. While his entire 2018 season wasn’t phenomenal, it still lands as one of his best. He’s only twenty-six years old, he’s just entering his prime, and we probably haven’t even seen the best of him yet.

Prediction: 9 yrs/300 million. The Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies are nearly done with a rebuild, and nearly made the playoffs last season without a late-season crumble, and it looks like they’re one or two pieces away from battling the Braves for a division title. Signing Bryce Harper could be the push over the edge they need.

2.Manny Machado:

Much of the same can be said for Machado as was said about Harper except the key to Machado is consistency. While Harper has had injuries that he’s dealt with, he’s finished four out of his first seven seasons with 139 games played or less. Machado has played all but two seasons, in his first seven seasons, of 155 games or more. The tale of the tape can also be said about postseason stats. Neither has been very good when it’s mattered most, and it has to come into play in the decision to sign a player to such a lucrative contract.

Prediction: 8 yrs/302 million. The New York Yankees.

Let’s face it. As much as we don’t like it, the Yankees always have money and will spend it when needed, and they need a more consistent player in their lineup when it comes to getting on base. Machado would fit right in with the evil empire.

3.Patrick Corbin:

Corbin turned in his most dominant season last year pitching 33 games with an ERA of 3.15, hurling 200 innings, the second time in his career he has reached that mark. If not for Jacob DeGrom, he might’ve been a favorite for the CY Young award. Easily the best starting pitcher on the market, and being a lefty, he will command a heavy sum to whoever wants his services come 2019.

Prediction: 6 yrs/162 million. The Philadelphia Phillies.

A young club, needing another star pitcher to go along with Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola, he’d be the perfect piece to make a three-headed monster. The Phils could look very dangerous come 2019

4.Dallas Keuchel:

Keuchel turned in a decent season in 2018, overcoming a dreadful first half, where he struggled in the majority of the first innings of games. Keuchel bounced back to the tune of a 3.74 ERA and pitched at least 200 innings for the third time in his career. With injury issues in past years, you wondered at times if Keuchel would ever get back to his CY Young year of 2015. He is still the best groundball pitcher in all of baseball. He’s the king of weak contact and allowed the fewest hits in the majors in 2018.

Prediction: 6 yrs/144 million. The Chicago Cubs.

With Jon Lester only getting older, and Yu Darvish’s status unknown for 2019, and his recent struggles, the Cubs need consistency and a proven veteran on their staff. Their window seems to be closing every so slightly, so maybe Keuchel can give them the shot in the arm they need.

5.Marwin Gonzalez:

The man can play anywhere in the infield and outfield apart from catcher and pitching and a gold glove caliber levels. He can hit for power, he has speed, he’s the most versatile player in the major leagues at the moment, and every team wants him to be wearing their jersey. In what was sort of a down year in 2018, he hit .247 but still hit sixteen homers. For a utility player who values to that of Ben Zobrist who received four years, fifty-six million, from the Chicago Cubs in 2015. Except Marwin Gonzalez is younger, and better.

Prediction: 4 yrs/64 million. The Los Angeles Dodgers.

With Manny Machado not re-signing, the Dodgers will be okay next season when Corey Seager comes back from a season-ending injury. However, with Chase Utley retiring, there’s a utility spot opening on the infield, and whom better to take over than the man of many positions.

6.Yasmani Grandal: While he is the best catcher currently on the market, it is a very thin market. The consistently below average hitter does have a decent amount of pop. He’s hit 20+ home runs for the past three seasons, which is somewhat of a rarity to find in a catcher. Fielding wise, he owns a career .994 fielding percentage, making him an asset. However, a second glance at his caught stealing rate in 2018 at 28% might make you rethink that.

Prediction: 3 yrs/42 million. The Houston Astros.

With the loss of Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado, the Astros current catcher situation is Max Stassi and Garrett Stubbs, a rookie who hasn’t even debuted yet. While Stubbs might be the future at the position, there is clearly a hole behind the dish. They could trade for J.T. Realmuto, but they’d probably have to give up either Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker, which they aren’t too keen on doing, evidenced by past trades.

7. Craig Kimbrel:

In 2018 Kimbrel passed the forty save mark for the first time since 2014, and for the fifth time in his nine-year career. With an ERA of 2.74, Kimbrel still clocks up his fastball around the high 90’s to 100. He still stands like a crane before every pitch, and he’s still one of the most dominant closers of this era of baseball. Making a Hall of Fame case with each passing season, he is a free agent for the second time in his ever-growing illustrious career, and he will once again command a large contract as a free agent. Look at the Aroldis Chapman contract as the most recent evidence of how much he could get. One shouldn’t think he’ll get as much as Chapman, but he’ll be close.

Prediction: 4 yrs/ 66 million. The Atlanta Braves.

I smell a reunion coming this offseason. The Braves were a good team in 2018, and what better way to cap off the rebuild than by adding the man who spent the first five years of his career in Atlanta.

8.Nathan Eovaldi:

Eovaldi is a hard-throwing righty that regularly touches 100. His cutter will tear you up at the plate, and his command is ridiculous. He was a hero for Boston in 2018 coming over from the Rays midseason. Is his tremendous half season, and monstrous postseason performance enough to garner him a large contract? I think if you’re searching for a starter, Eovaldi is a guy to take a chance on. He’s always had the stuff, he just had to put it together, and in Boston, he put it together.

Prediction: 3 yrs/ 45 million. The Houston Astros.

The Astros are going into next season without potentially three out of their main five from 2018. Lance McCullers had Tommy John surgery that will keep him out for over a year, and Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel are free agents and could be headed elsewhere. A move is needed, and why not sign the hometown flame-throwing stud and pry him away from the team that bested you in the American League Championship Series.

9.Nelson Cruz:

He’s thirty-eight years old, but he still mashes. He’s hit thirty-five home runs for the past four seasons, and he doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of losing his pop. He doesn’t play the field much anymore, so he’d be the best fit to sign with an American League club, but there are no shortages of teams that need a powerful righty in the middle of their order.

Prediction: 2 yrs/ 26 million. The Houston Astros.

He won’t command anywhere near a twenty-million-dollar contract, and he won’t command a lengthy contract, as his age creeps up to him. This veteran will probably receive somewhere in between ten and fifteen million at most. Houston needs some power in their lineup after a significant drop off in 2018. Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Yuli Gurriel, and even Jose Altuve, showed signs of regression in the home run department. What team is a better fit, and how many other teams can give Nelson a true shot at a championship as his career winds down?

10.Jeurys Familia:

He’s still twenty-nine years old and is probably the second best closer on the market behind Kimbrel. In the past four years, he’s only posted an ERA higher than 3.15 one time, and it was in 2017; a season in which he only pitched twenty-six innings. He’s consistently good and will probably command somewhere below what Craig Kimbrel does.

Prediction: 5 yrs/ 75 million. The Boston Red Sox.

The Red-Sox will sign a closer this offseason, but it will not be Craig Kimbrel. They’re set to lose two to three major pitching assets from their championship team, however, don’t expect those spots to remain empty, and the sox to do nothing regarding the players leaving. Their window is still open, and Dave Dombrowski doesn’t seem content with one title.

**All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com**

Is It an Excuse to Say the Astros Lost Because of Injuries?

The Astros lost. Wow, that hurts to say.

Don’t you just wish they could’ve been winners forever? How great of a feeling was it for your favorite hometown team to finally be on top of the world? Before the Astros won, the last Houston championship was twenty-one years prior, by the Rockets. Many fans weren’t even breathing the last time Houston tasted gold.

The Astros had their shot to do something that hasn’t been done in 18 years, go back to back. However, they were halted in their history-chasing tracks by a Red-Sox team that frankly was a lot better than the Astros were, in this series. However, you’d think the series should have been a lot more even. On paper the Stros’ were the better team simply due to their pitching, so what happened?

You can say whatever you want to help you cope with getting knocked out of the playoffs, but the fact is, Boston played better. No one will debate that. However, one argument that has been on repeat is, “if Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa had been fully healthy, would the series have gone differently?” It’s not a far-fetched question. Altuve’ and Correa are the two rocks in the middle of the Astros lineup. They’re the anchors, the heavy hitters, the cornerstones, one of the best two-men tandems in the game today, but had they been fully healed from injuries, would it have made a difference?

In the American League Championship series, the Astros batted a measly .219 as a team, while Boston hit .233. Not that much of a difference, right? Let’s dive a little deeper. With runners on, the Astros batted .190. That’s abysmal. The Red-Sox batted .257. With runners on base with two outs, the Astros batted .244. The Red-Sox batted .303. They came up in clutch situations and performed. The Astros did not.

With runners in scoring position and two outs, the Red-Sox batted an astonishing .389. Houston batted .280. The Sox took care of most of their offensive opportunities while the Astros just couldn’t cash in. Would Altuve or Carlos have made a difference? Possibly. However, I doubt it would’ve been enough to overcome an offensive unit that seemed to grab you by the throat and feast, every time they smelled blood in the water.

Going into the series everyone thought the Astros pitching would’ve propelled them past the Sox, but in this crazy world of baseball, it was the exact opposite. The Red-Sox starters had an earned run average of 4.38, and the Astros had an earned run average of 5.53. Neither are great numbers, but let’s dive deeper one more time. The Red-Sox bullpen had an earned run average of 3.54, and the Astros, even in their pen that had been so dominant all season, had an earned run average of 5.79. Could even two phenomenal players like Correa and Altuve being 100% make up that much of a difference in this series?

Carlos Correa seemed to be turning a corner, as he was connecting with the ball for the first time in what seemed like an extremely long time. However, the power numbers still weren’t there, so it didn’t matter much. Altuve, always being the little engine that can, played his heart out even on a bum knee. Who knows? Maybe with the heart of your lineup healthy, it might have energized the entire offense. Momentum is a key factor in any playoff series, and without Altuve and Correa, there just seemed to be none.

Could it have gone differently? Certainly. However, even with Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at full capacity, the bullpen would have to have been on par. It wasn’t. The starting pitching would have had to have been stellar like it had been all season. It wasn’t. What we’re left with is a lot of questions, and disappointment, and sad memories of how the Astros were shut down in five games. It should have gone better, but baseball has a way of kicking you in your butt. Injuries played a large part, sure. Many of our hometown heroes were beaten up. However, you can’t put all the fault on it and ignore the obvious that Boston was the better team. Congratulations to the Red Sox, and hopefully we see you right back in October, next year.

**All stats courtesy of Astros.com**

Should the Astros Pursue Bryce Harper?

Would the Astros even consider chasing Bryce Harper?

The 2018 Major League Baseball offseason is shaping up to be one of the biggest free agent pools that we’ve had in quite some time. Unlike past years where there were noticeable shortages in certain free agent positions, this winter boasts big names at nearly every single position. Below is a list, by position of just a few notable names via CBS Sports.

  • Catchers: Martin Maldanado, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Wieters, Jonath Lucroy, Wilson Ramos,
  • First Basemen: Joe Mauer, Matt Adams, Mark Reynolds, Steve Pearce,
  • Second Basemen: Jed Lowrie, Ian Kinsler, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, D.J. LeMahieu
  • Third Basemen: Josh Donaldson, Eduardo Escobar, Adrian Beltre, Pablo Sandoval
  • Shortstop: Manny Machado, Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Jose Iglesias
  • Outfielders: Michael Brantley, Marwin Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, A.J. Pollock, Leonys Martin, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Jason Heyward, Carlos Gonzalez
  • Designated hitters: Evan Gattis, Nelson Cruz
  • Starting Pitchers: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, (who has an opt-out clause) J.A. Happ, Charlie Morton, David Price, Lance Lynn, Nathan Eovaldi, Gio Gonzalez, and sixteen other starters who give you a positive WAR.
  • Relievers: Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, David Robertson, Craig Kimbrel, Jake Diekman, Andrew Miller, Kelvin Herrera, Mark Melancon, (has an opt-out clause) Greg Holland, Zach Britton, Cody Allen

The list is massive, and it seems as if once the 2019 campaign comes along, the landscape of baseball will be different. Expect only a handful of these impending free agents to sign back with their previous teams. The talks will be fast, the negotiations will be frequent, and this will be one of the best times, as a free agent player, to get the contract that you’ve been dreaming of since you broke into the league.

The most intriguing player

There is one name though, on the list, that seems to stand out more than most, and whether that be due to his antics when he was first breaking the rookie barrier, his outright cocky nature, or the fact that one General Manager in 2017 said, “Four hundred million is light.” "It's going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year." Bryce Harper is certainly going to be a hot commodity this offseason, but is he worth the trouble, and the finances, to try and persuade to come to Houston?

The Pros

Bryce Harper is dynamic whether on or off the field. Only really rivaling Mike Trout in most known names in baseball, Harper is a spark plug. Coming into the league at only nineteen years old, Bryce Harper has made a career for himself, and he’s still only twenty-six years old, barely into his prime. In seven seasons with the Nationals, he has already compiled a nice list of achievements.

He’s attended six All-Star games, won rookie of the year, collected a silver slugger, and won the Most Valuable Player award in 2015. He’s hit over thirty home runs, twice, and nearly hit thirty once again in 2017, only missing the mark by one. He’s hit 184 home runs total, 183 doubles, and is a career .279 hitter. With a career 27.8 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, there’s no doubt that Harper is a game changer on the baseball field.

The Cons

The contract and the injuries. If you talk about potentially signing Bryce Harper, there are two main issues that you must have in the back of your mind. How much am I going to be paying him? Will he be able actually to stay on the field? He’s played seven years in Washington, and four out seven years, he’s played 139 games or less. He’s dealt with more than four or five injuries, two being to his knees.

If you’re going to be paying a player potentially, you need to know that he’s going to be able to be healthy and contribute, and according to Greg Kirkland of Pinstripe Alley, “Take Bryce Harper for example. The young 26-year old superstar outfielder is apparently looking to start the signing discussion at ten years, $350 million.” That’s $35 million a season, roughly. When you look at that amount of money, you have to ask yourself, if Harper can’t stay on the field, does his production, and his power, and his ability to hit the ball, outweigh the risk he might not even be in every game down the stretch.

Should the Astros go for it?

It’s not an easy decision, and Jeff Luhnow and Jim Crane are undoubtedly going to make a lot of tough choices come the winter meetings and into next season. Do you bring Dallas Keuchel back? Do you bring Marwin Gonzalez back? Do you bring Charlie Morton back? Do you sign one of the biggest young stars in the game to such a lucrative contract?

The decision will ultimately come down to, what happens with Marwin Gonzalez. If they can’t re-sign Gonzalez, it’s going to be very intriguing not only because he played much outfield, but he played many positions everywhere, and he produced everywhere. If you want a sure-fire productive player to replace Gonzalez, there are no shortages.

However, as stated, Harper is only twenty-six years old, and still very early in his prime, meaning, what we’ve seen so far out of him might just be the beginning. What can happen if he’s in a lineup surrounded by a healthy and thriving Carlos Correa? If Bregman, Altuve, Springer, all get on before him. It’s a short porch in left, and Harper can make many fireworks go off using it to his advantage. Do you give him that much money, with Bregman, Altuve, Springer, and Correa waiting to be paid?

There is no right answer to give, but this can be said in place of one. Winning team’s windows are often limited. The Astros have a deep system that can last for the next four or five years, and that’s their advantage. It’s going to be a fun offseason, and I trust Crane and Luhnow to make the right decisions, no matter what happens.

**Stats and quotes courtesy of CBSSports, MLB.COM, Baseball-Reference, Pinstripealley**

​Is Marwin Gonzalez​ the Most Important Astros Player to be Re-signed?

Heading into the 2018 offseason, the Houston Astros have some very important decisions to make.

With it being a vast market in between seasons, meaning this is one of the steepest pools of free agents that we’ve ever seen hit the open market. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities for other teams in the league to add depth and talent to their rosters. Many players are going to find new homes, and the Astros hometown 25 isn’t going to be immune to losing favorite faces that they’ve grown accustomed to seeing day in and day out. Let’s take a look at just who will be seeking a new contract in the coming months.

Notable Astros that are now without a home are Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Evan Gattis, Tony Sipp, Martin Maldonado, and Marwin Gonzalez. They will all be free agents going into the winter. These are some very crucial names that play important roles for the Astros.

Starting pitchers

Keuchel is the number three starter in the rotation behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. He’s spent seven years in Houston, three or four as the Ace of the staff, compiling a 3.74 era, a Cy Young Award, and two all-star appearances. However, there have been talks that Keuchel has never been quite the same after his Cy Young winning season in 2015. No longer a spring chicken, you could argue that he’s still got a year or two left in his prime.

He’s not a real hard thrower, and he relies heavily on getting weak contact and ground balls, meaning he might last a few years longer than most hard-throwing pitchers. He’s an effective starter when he’s on and could easily be an ace on any staff, but he also does have an injury history and will command a hefty sum. Do you re-sign Keuchel? You will have to potentially pay other budding stars such as Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. The Astros have options at AAA in Forrest Whitley, but he’s not a lefty. Effective lefties are hard to come by.

Charlie Morton is a player that the entire Astros fan base would love to see come back for a season or two more. Morton debated retirement at the end of this season, but has spoken up and stated, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, that, “I’d love to keep playing,” “I’d love to be an Astro. I’d love to be a part of this again.

Ultimately, it’s not really up to me. It’s not solely up to me.” He’s become a fan favorite. Morton won two game sevens in the Astros first World Series championship run. He won’t soon be forgotten, and the way he’s pitched the past two seasons, why should he be? He’d only be looking for a one- or two-year deal, it just depends once again on the price tag he commands. There’s no doubt other teams will be speaking to him as well.

Key but minor players.

Gattis, Maldonado, and Sipp, frankly, can all be grouped in the same circle. All have had productive moments as a member of the Astros, but options are waiting patiently behind them, or options that are fairly easy to attain

El Oso Blanco has a love of a fan base like few players do due to his backstory and what he’s personally overcome to get where he is. Though throughout his career he’s either hot as burning lava or as cold as ice, he’s hit at least twenty home runs in every one of his major league seasons except one. He’s a career .250 hitter. Apart from your love of the lumberjack, is there really a reason to bring him back, as much as that hurts to say? There are other options at DH, and that’s mainly what he is nowadays.

Maldonado is a special case because he’s a gold glove defender and is one of the best at catching base-stealers in both the National and American league. His bat also seemed to awaken during his second half go around with Astros. The only question you have with Maldonado is can his bat stay the same next season or is it worth pursuing a proven upgrade offensively such as J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, or Jonathan Lucroy.

Sipp has had a topsy-turvy stint as an Astro, and even he’ll admit to it. He’s been with the team since 2014 and only had two genuinely productive seasons, both being in contract years. “I know what it looks like and it still looks like,” Sipp said. “Looks like I just got my money and stopped worrying about baseball,” per Chandler Rome. Sipp knows the opinions, he’s heard them, and while it looks like he truly has turned it around in 2018, he still is turning thirty-six next season, and the Astros have lefty options ready to go in Cionel Perez and Reymin Guduan.

But is anyone as crucial as Marwin?

All the players above are loved. Keuchel took to twitter and said, “I love you Houston.” We love you too. We truly do. However, one player took to Instagram to say roughly the same thing, but with more depth and ended the post with, “Forever #Houstonstrong.” What followed were thoughts of, “What will this Houston team do without certain key players from the past six or seven seasons,” and it stretched into, “Who can this team not afford to lose,” and unanimously the decision kept landing on Gonzalez, the man of many positions.

Who else can play nearly every spot on the field at gold glove caliber levels? Who else can swing the bat from both sides of the plate and have the power and contact ability that he does from each side? How many games would have been different in the past seven seasons had Gonzalez not been able to take over defensively? How many games would have turned out differently had Gonzalez not stepped up to the plate and delivered?

The Astros might not have won a World Series in 2017 if not for his blast off Kenley Jansen. The Astros might not have even advanced to the World Series if not for his cannon of a throw home to get Greg Bird at the plate in the American League Championship series. Time and time again, Gonzalez, purely with his versatility at every position, and his versatility at the plate, have delivered for the Astros.

He will get paid, this I’m sure of.

In 2015, Ben Zobrist received a four year, fifty-six-million-dollar contract from the cubs, and Gonzalez is even better than Zobrist. How much he will receive is unknown but expect it to be a hefty contract. Should the Astros pursue such a contract for a player that doesn’t have a single position that he calls his own? Yes, they should. He’s going into his age thirty season, he’s still in his prime, and the Houston Astros should do everything in their power to re-sign such a dynamic talent. If Gonzalez isn’t back in a Houston Uniform come Opening Day next season, there will be quite a large hole to fill not only defensively, and at the plate, but also in the clubhouse and in the hearts of every single fan packing Minute Maid Park.

**Stats, quotes and sources courtesy of Sportrac, Baseball-Reference, MLB Trade Rumors, and the Houston Chronicle.**