With Upset Loss, Astros Offseason Clock Starts

At 11:35 pm the Houston Astros coughed up the final out in what was a brutal 7-0 beat down at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. Many storylines, and rightfully so, will be centered on how the Braves were able to complete a truly magical run for their first chip in 26 years. However, sulking quietly for the moment is something the Astros will now have to contend with. Something that could ultimately spell the end of their five year run of pure dominance over the AL West – Free agency.

The Astros have won the West four times in five years and more or less taken a leisurely stroll to the World Series three of those times. Behind stellar pitching, smart deadline moves and a historically prolific offense (with a few trashcan lids thrown in) Houston has been a benchmark in the league now for half a decade on the “How it’s Built” formula for winning. While there have been rumblings of what Carlos Correa will do this offseason much of that talk was hushed behind the veil of winning, as so often happens. Well 88-win Atlanta just cut that veil to ribbons. Houston has an enormous amount of talent hitting free agency this offseason and frankly this could be the end of their run.

Outside of Correa the Astros will have to make decisions on veterans Zach Greinke, Justin Verlander, Yulieski Gurriel and Martin Maldonado. While most of these names are on the back end of their careers, their club house presence and leadership should not be overlooked. Couple that with the prospect of losing a bat and glove like Correa and this Astros’ team might be in for an uphill battle in 2022.

Correa in particular is going to command a hefty price tag that is expected to be somewhere in the range of 350 million+ and why shouldn’t he? He has been relatively healthy with career numbers that are on par with Lindor. If current trends are to be trusted someone out there is going to offer him a long-term deal near 40 million annually. With all that being said, Houston’s estimated payroll for 2022 is only 147 million with a tax threshold of 210 million; meaning they have room to spend. Without Correa this lineup is a lot more manageable and the defensive drop would be incredibly. One would have to think the front office will do anything it can to bring back the 27-year old star.

Outside of free agency there are plenty of questions surrounding this club including what direction they should take for both the starting rotation and bullpen. The rotation was spectacular during the regular season, finishing top-10 in most overall team statistics and the bullpen at least serviceable. However, after imploding in World Series and with the prospect of losing Verlander and Greinke questions will need answering moving forward. Names on the market like Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and Carlos Rodon as starters and Kenley Jansen and Liam Hendriks as relievers are all viable options. What might be problematic is cost. Sign Correa to a large contract or bolster the staff and bullpen? Both might not be an option. Many of the options available will command 20 million+ on the current market and possibly more. With so many teams needing pitching depth these days price tags are bound to fly skyward.

This is not a team with a strong farm system at the moment or many draft picks. It is hard to see help comparable enough to replace the names listed above coming from within the organization. Questions without answers seem to be plenty for this team that just a few short years ago seemed to be building the next Evil Empire. With the Angel’s sporting two of the sports biggest names, the Mariners showing flashes that they are ready to compete and the A’s somehow managing to always fall forward into 90+ win season the Houston Astros might very well be looking up and not down in 2022.

About @757JoeyWalsh 13 Articles
A highly involved sports writer with passion for it. MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL fanatic. Sports are simply what I do.

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