The 2019 Houston Astros fell one game short of winning their second World Series in three seasons. To be more specific, they were eight outs away thanks to a great performance by Zack Grienke. But with the season now over, the team will have to figure out how to replace eight spots on the active roster.
One of the biggest questions headed into free-agency will be the rotation. The team will most likely not sign Gerrit Cole this offseason, but they still have Justin Verlander and Grienke to anchor the rotation. With two leading arms, the potential loss of Cole may not be as devastating to the team. Lance McCullers Jr. will return after missing last season with Tommy John surgery. Jose Urquidy, who threw five scoreless innings in Game 5 of the World Series also has a chance to take a spot in the rotation. He pitched in nine games and threw 41 innings for the Astros in 2019, sporting a 3.95 ERA.
Other young names may step into the 2020 rotation as well. Forrest Whitley, the Astros #1 prospect, was slated to join the rotation in 2019 but it never happened. His development has been hampered by an injury and a lengthy suspension for breaking the league’s drug policy. Both Framber Valdez and Josh James are the only other pitchers on the roster who have made starts in the past and might be due for an extended look. With all the open spots, however, the Astros could look to free agency to add one more pitcher for the rotation.
The Astros will also need to replace five arms in the bullpen; these include Will Harris, Joe Smith, Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, Chris Devenski, and Hector Rondon. The two that are key to re-signing are Will Harris and Joe Smith. Of the five, Harris and Smith were the most reliable arms coming out of the pen in 2019. Harris posted an incredible 1.50 ERA in 60 innings of work as a curveball specialist while Smith worked to an amazing 260 ERA+ in 25 innings of work.
On the offensive side of the squad, the Astros will look to fill a hole at the catcher position. Both Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado are free agents, so the Astros will need to sign a catcher. They could decide to re-sign one of these and use Garrett Stubbs as the back up. Prospect Korey Lee is also down in the minors, but he won’t be up for another couple of seasons. Luckily, there are plenty of free-agent catchers this offseason to look through.
Even with eight roster spots vacated due to free agency, the Astros still have plenty of talent. By adding a few veteran arms and possibly a new catcher, they could be on their way to another 100 win season.
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