Bargain basket options for targeting


Justin Verlander’s contract status It will probably top Crane’s to-do list as Thanksgiving approaches. And despite turning 40 in February, Verlander won’t be back at a discount. He will likely lead a multi-year deal in free agency, one that could be in excess of $100 million. Crane already has it He stated his desire to keep Verlander in Houston, but keeping Ms. Cy Young won’t come cheap.


The spending won’t stop at the top rotation in Houston. The Astros have a noticeable void at first base after them Yuli Gurel And the Trey Mancini Both have entered free agency, and can also pursue catcher if they want an offensive promotion over Martín Maldonado. Going back is not an easy task. Crane will need to make some investments to make that happen.

It’s hypothetically easy to spend the owner’s money from the comfort of your couch, though in the end, it’s worth considering the economic limitations of the enterprise. The Astros live near the top of the MLB payroll, but they won’t spend with reckless abandon like Steve Cohen’s Mets. Especially if Verlander re-signs, the majority of Houston’s off-the-cuff moves could be on the sidelines.

With that in mind, let’s do some deal-hunting and identify some (relatively) cheap goals that could be a good fit for the Astros in 2023.

Christian Vasquez, C.

Want a suitable sequel to Maldonado? Look no further than the man who joined him for the 2022 Houston World Series. The former Red Sox assistant struggled in a two-month stint of the regular season with the Astros last season, but has put up solid productions in prior years – posting a . 798 OPS in 2020 and 801 marks in the year Previous. Vasquez quickly tussled with Houston’s pitching staff last season, serving as the catcher for the Houston combined a no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.


Christian Vazquez #9 of the Houston Astros celebrates his RBI hit against the Houston Astros with Omar Lopez #22 of the Houston Astros during the sixth inning in Game Six of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 5, 2022 in Houston.

Harry Hoo/Getty Images

Kicking Maldonado to the curb in order to push the best deal on the market to Wilson Contreras doesn’t make sense to Houston. Adding a cheap but effective companion species like Vasquez is by far the wiser move.

Kevin Kiermayer, CF

I remain skeptical of Houston making any kind of serious push to sign Brandon Nemo, and while it might be smart for both parties, I don’t see Cody Bellinger playing at home at Minute Maid Park next season. If Houston wants to take on a true quarterback as their starting option ahead of Chas McCormick, Kevin Kiermayer might be the next best option. Arguably the best defensive player in baseball, Kiermaier patrolled the cavernous Minute Maid Park field with ease. Kiermaier isn’t much of a bat, but given the depth of Houston’s lineup, the Astros will still score a lot with him on the 9th hole. A move from Tampa to Houston in 2023 isn’t entirely out of the question.

Jeimer Candelario, IF

Houston still has two chances to get into an All-Star caliber starter, even after that Anthony Rizzo’s decision to stay in New York. The Astros are reportedly interested in AL MVP Jose Abreu for 2020, and switch Josh Bell could be an attractive option in the middle of Houston’s application. Perhaps the Astros would get creative if Gurriel or the aforementioned early Buzzmen didn’t join the defending champs.

Candelario played third base in Detroit last season, but he’s experienced right side and can probably handle first base in 2023. Like Bell, Candelario is a switch hitter, and he’s the best hitter compared to his . 633 OPS last year. He led the AL with 42 doubles in 2021, and batted . 503 in the shortened 2020 campaign. A friendlier home restriction and better lineup protection could lead to a career year for Candelario if he signs with Houston.

Tommy Pham #22 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the first inning of the game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 27, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

Tommy Pham #22 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the first inning of the game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 27, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

Maddy Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images


Tommy Pham, OF

Pham isn’t any kind of everyday center fielder at this point in his career, but he’s an intriguing batter who could spend some time as a league outfielder and designated hitter. Pham hit 41 extra base hits last season, and he’s noticed an emphasis lately on increasing his slugging with his onside hits. Houston could sign a fam on the cheap, then reap the rewards as he hauled balls into Crawford’s bins.

Andrew Heaney, SP

Houston’s sport is perhaps the deepest crop of arms in baseball, but if Verlander breaks out in free agency, adding another high-quality arm would be a worthwhile option. Who can top Houston from the bottom of the Verlander-Degrum-Rodon layer? Perhaps an arm from Los Angeles will do the trick.

Heaney posted his best career strikeout average in 2022 with the Dodgers when he blasted to a 3.10 ERA, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (29.4 percent) was a better mark than Cy Young contenders Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, and Shohei Ohtani. There’s still a bit of a home run problem with Heaney, but Houston’s coaching and game calling can curb that problem in short order. As the old axiom goes, you can never get too much promotion. The Astros shouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with the current rotation if Verlander leaves free agency.

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