Predicting two big splashes this offseason by the Houston Astros.
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Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Here we go, Houston Astros fans. It is time to get aggressive. Jim Crane has given Astros GM Jeff Luhnow the go ahead to increase the payroll from 2016. Some may disagree, but we are a few players away from becoming more than just competitive. The Cubs had the young talent that Houston has, but they also supplemented in some veterans that led to the World Series.
Jeff Luhnow said today he would like to make a move or two before the winter meetings (Dec. 5 to 8) if possible: https://t.co/EwN2NJR5DE
Before the 2015 season, Luhnow added some veterans in Luis Valbuena, Colby Rasmus, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, and Evan Gattis. While we had several young players on the team, they were balanced out by some veteran presence. The Jose Altuve led Stros came within six outs of reaching the ALDS that year. Except for Gattis and Neshek, these players took a step back in 2016.
The lineup has a great core in Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Yulieski Gurriel. However, what they are missing is the veteran presence batting third. Yes, Altuve beefed up his power numbers, but he is more of a Craig Biggio hitter who leads off. Altuve and Correa both finished shy of 100 RBI’s in 2016, but what if you added a 125 RBI type of guys to this lineup?
Via Jake Kaplan, Jeff Luhnow hinted they could add a player or two before the Winter Meetings in December. Let me take this statement too literally and predict the two players they will sign and trade for.
Jun 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) batting against Houston Astros in the third inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Call it intuition or common sense, the Astros need a big bat. I will go out on the limb and predict that Luhnow will sign Edwin Encarnacion, and will sign him soon. My guess is that Luhnow has already met with Encarnacion’s agent and he could be considering between Toronto, Boston, and Houston.
#Astros will pursue Miguel Cabrera or Edwin Encarnacion. Payroll increase is coming. They have only two players signed beyond 2017. @MLB
It was reported by Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzer, via The Score, that he is seeking a five-year $125 million dollar deal. This is his first chance to test his value on the open market, so he’s looking big. While he is looking for the money, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants to win the World Series too. With the Blue Jays, the team failed to advance deep in the playoffs in two straight years. He could see the talent that the Astros have and see a possibility of winning big.
He could go to Boston, but then he would feel the pressure of filling in for David Ortiz‘s legacy. He could stay in Toronto, but Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders will most likely leave via free agency. Josh Donaldson will still be a Blue Jay, but their lineup won’t be as potent as it was in 2016. The Yankees and Rangers could get into the bidding, but I think the Astros make the most sense.
The Astros have the means and need to sign him. This will allow Luhnow to use top prospects to acquire a starting pitcher. Kinzer says that the Blue Jays are his number one choice, but other teams have emerged that they didn’t expect. Could the Astros be one of those teams that have gone in on Encarnacion?
Kinzer also hinted that the process might not last long, Encarnacion does not want to drag this out. He wants to know where he and his family will live for the next five years. Luhnow has already come out and said that they would be aggressive this offseason. Instead of haggling over the price, I think the Astros made their best offer. Could Encarnacion be considering it? I am predicting that he will sign with Houston.
Jul 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann (34) celebrates with third base coach Joe Espada (53) after hitting a home run against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With Jason Castro seeking employment elsewhere, I see the Astros being aggressive to get a catcher as well. There are not many top options out there in free agency, with Matt Wieters and Wilson Ramos being the top choices. Castro probably falls to the third best option. Wieters has been inconsistent, and Ramos is a significant injury risk after tearing his ACL twice.
In house, the Astros have Max Stassi and a few young guys who may not be ready yet. Some might consider Gattis an everyday option, the team views him as a backup catcher who plays DH. The have been rumors that the Astros are looking at Yankees catcher Brian McCann. While I know McCann is not a popular option among CTH writers, I think he is a perfect fit.
Playing his home games at MMP would be perfect for McCann, as he is a left-handed hitter. His swing is made for the Crawford Boxes, and he would be the veteran leader the team needs. McCann is signed for the next two seasons for $17 million per year and a team option for 2019 for $15 million. You might say that is too much money to pay for McCann, but you could have some give and take with how much they will pay.
The teams are rumored to have mutual interest and could be hammering out the details. Luhnow wants Cashman to pay more of the contract and Cashman wants more/better prospects from Houston. Luhnow is probably trying to hold his top prospects for a trade for a pitcher, but it’s a little give and take from both sides.
Sanchez makes McCann available.
The Yankees have an emerging star in Gary Sanchez, so they don’t need McCann. They will not give him away, but I think there is a desire on both sides to complete a deal. I am predicting that McCann will be the opening day catcher in 2017.
The payroll will rise significantly if the team does make these two moves, now they would need to chase one of the Rays starting pitchers. Let’s make the Astros great again, make these moves Jeff. We could be the next Cubs!
***Salary via Baseball-Reference and quotes from The Score***