The 2020 baseball season is still in its spring training infancy and there has already been talk about the future of the Houston Astros beyond this year. Some of that is because there are those who think the Astros will not be able to handle the mental aspect of what looks to be one of the most grueling seasons in baseball history. Some of it is simply because most of the contracts for impact players come up in the next two years. While there are those that see gloom and doom on the horizon, I think there is a definite path to maintain many of the current parts. Not only that, there is a definite path for the team to become even better despite the Astros 2021 free agents.
2021 Free Agent Outfield
The big worry about next year is the fact that the entire starting outfield is a free agent. While it seems the end of Josh Reddick’s run in the outfield has been on the horizon for two seasons already, it is a near impossibility to see him patrolling right field in 2021. We knew this was coming though and fully expect Kyle Tucker to be ready to handle the hole, saving the team around $12.5 million.
Michael Brantley’s contract will be up as well, and at age 33 (turning 34 in season) it is unlikely the team brings his contract back unless he signs for an obscene bargain. The current thought is that Yordan Alvarez will pick up those duties. However, recent reports have revealed a knee issue that has been causing him pain going back to last season. This could put a wrench in those plans, limiting Alvarez to DH duties. The back up plan would have to be Myles Straw at this point, and that’s not a bad backup plan. Either way, it would save the club around $13.5 million.
Take the $26 million saved from those two players and you have more than enough to pad George Springer’s $21 million dollar salary. I just really can’t see anyone offering him more than $23 million for five years. That would take him to his age 35 season, and for a guy known for getting hussle injuries, that could easily be it for his career.
2021 Free Agent First Base
The other big concern for next season will be 36 year old free agent Yuli Gurriel. How much will he want? Will he retire? I think the Astros have a decent shot at resigning him to a club friendly deal if they choose to.
One thing that could hinder his return is if he could work out a deal with Toronto. While money is almost always the driving factor in these decisions, a chance to play a year or two with your brother has to be enticing. And lets not forget, these aren’t just any brothers. The Gurriels are the first family of Cuban baseball. I’ve heard it described as somewhere between the NFL’s Mannings and if Kobe and Lebron were Jordan’s sons. The opportunity to play together would be a big deal. A deal that is much more feasible for Yuli to go to Toronto than for Lourdes to come to Houston.
If that happens, don’t worry, the club already has someone waiting in the wings. 26 year old Taylor Jones has developed a solid bat, posting a .291/.388/.501 in 2019 at Round Rock. Jones currently has a .333/.375/.533 mid way through spring training. A first baseman with a solid bat and O.K. power, sounds a lot like Yuli. Except Jones is 6’7” and would cost $8 million less.
2021 Free Agent Pitching
The other free agent coming up in 2021 is Brad Peacock and his $3.9 million dollar salary. He is good. We all like him. He is gone. The market for back end starters/middle relief has been pretty healthy the last few seasons. He will definitely make more money outside of Houston and its slew of similar role guys like Valdez and Perez.
While others see the Astros window as rapidly closing, I see a world in which they are just as good. They may get better, and wiggle under the competitive balance tax (depending on arbitration) after the 2021 free agents. Combine that with the fact that the next year Verlander and Greinke’s $68.7 million are coming off the books the same time players like Syndergaard, Foltynewicz, Kershaw, and Archer become free agents. Now you see why I say things are looking good for the long term health of the organization beyond the Astros 2021 free agents.