Major League Baseball’s offseason is underway. Trades and free-agent activity are sure to pick up over the coming weeks, before hitting a fever pitch at this year’s edition of winter meetings (scheduled to begin on Sunday, Dec. 3). If there’s one thing the early offseason is good for, it’s halfwits pretending they’re general managers and sketching out elaborate offseason plans. Does that sound enjoyable to you? Then, hey, this is your lucky day.
Below, CBS Sports has roleplayed as Houston Astros GM Dana Brown and laid out a few moves we think he should pursue this winter. It should (but won’t) go without saying that this is only for entertainment purposes. MLB executives cannot snap their fingers and make something happen just because they want it to happen. Just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the gasbaggery, please.
Now, with that out of the way, here are three moves we think the Astros should make this winter.
1. Extend Altuve, Bregman
We may as well start here, right? Brown has been open — perhaps overly so — about his desire to keep second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman in town for the duration of their careers. Brown will have to get work this offseason to make that a reality, as both can hit the open market next year.
Altuve, 33, is coming off arguably the second-best two-year stretch of his career. He’s hit .304/.390/.529 (157 OPS+) with 45 home runs and 32 stolen bases. The reality is that second basemen seldom remain this desirable into their mid-30s. That makes it difficult to figure out how much, precisely, he is likely to demand to sign what could be the final contract of his career.
Altuve’s most recent contract, which began in 2018, was just the second pact ever given to a second baseman that had an average annual value exceeding $20 million. (The first belonged to Robinson Cano at $24 million AAV.) Barring a rough 2024 season, Altuve will presumably be looking to sign the position’s third pact worth $20 million-plus annually — even if it’s only on a short-term arrangement. That’s still a sizable investment to make in a vacuum, let alone when combined with another potential big extension.
Bregman, 30 come March, signed a five-year extension worth $100 million during his pre-arbitration days. He’s hit .261/.365/.447 (127 OPS+) with 48 home runs and four stolen bases the last two years. It’s probably fair to think that he’s going to want closer to his market value this go around. The league’s top third baseman tend to fetch $30 million-plus annually, meaning that Bregman could demand six years and $180 million and be within reason.
Would the Astros really be up for committing more than $50 million annually to keep Altuve and Bregman around? We’ll find out soon enough. Such moves would likely limit how much they’re able to spend to shore up other parts of their roster. Keep that in mind — and adjust your sights — heading forward.
2. Add lefty outfielder
Coming into the offseason, Houston’s outfield depth chart includes Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, and Mauricio Dubón. There should be room for one more, ideally a lefty to pair with McCormick.
That role sounds perfect for free agent Michael Brantley, who has spent the last five seasons with the Astros. It’s possible that Brantley decides to retire as he nears his 37th birthday. It’s also possible the Astros would prefer a younger, cheaper, and/or more reliable option — Brantley, for his part, has been limited by shoulder woes to all of 79 games over the past two seasons.
In that case, the Astros should have plenty of options available to them. Brown is familiar with Eddie Rosario from their shared time with the Atlanta Braves. Rosario had his club option declined by the Braves despite performing at a league-average clip this season. Free agent Travis Jankowsi, meanwhile, would add speed to a roster that ranked 18th in stolen bases. Both players are accustomed to specialized deployment, making it more likely they’d accept less playing time if McCormick’s breakout leads to a most-days role.
Alternatively, if the Astros take to the trade market, there are two obvious targets: Seth Brown (Oakland Athletics) and Luke Raley (Tampa Bay Rays). Each has their own set of question marks, and, in turn, it stands to reason that neither would cost a lot in terms of talent to add them to Houston’s roster.
3. Address bullpen
The Astros had one of the best relief corps in the majors last season, ranking sixth in regular season ERA. Their end-game combination of closer Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Phil Maton was particularly effective, with each of the quartet recording an ERA+ of 115 or better. Neris (having opted out), Maton, and fellow righty reliever Ryne Stanek are now slated to hit free agency, meaning the Astros will need to add external reinforcements.
With Pressly in place, we think it’s unlikely that Houston pursues top free-agent closer Josh Hader. Likewise, we’re not sure the Astros will attempt to re-sign Neris or Maton given how poorly their extension with Rafael Montero played out in its first year. That could leave them shopping a little further down the market for someone who would take a one or two-year deal.
Two names we think could make sense for the Astros in that respect are José Cisnero and Kirby Yates.
Cisnero, who began his professional career with Houston, had a rough season with the Detroit Tigers, leading to him being waived late in the year. We think he’s a decent buy-low candidate based on his track record (he had a 145 ERA+ from 2020-22) and his recent improvements against left-handed batters.
Yates, the other name we’ll throw out there, recently had an affordable team option declined by the Braves. That suggests to us that the league might not value him highly enough to give him a multi-year deal, even though he just posted a 136 ERA+ and a 31.5% strikeout rate. Blame it on his age (he’ll turn 37 next March) or his wildness (he walked nearly six per nine innings). Whatever the case, the Astros could do worse as a seventh-inning type.
We will note that the Astros should get veteran righty Kendall Graveman back ahead of next spring. He missed Houston’s entire postseason run with a shoulder injury after coming over at the trade deadline from the Chicago White Sox. As such, they may feel comfortable proceeding after making one or two additions.