In his latest Astros inbox, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart explores a number of topics pertaining to Houston’s 2018 roster and their current offseason plans. McTaggart suggests that left-handed relief will be a top priority for the ’Stros this winter and that Jake Marisnick will return for the 2018 season as the team’s primary fourth outfielder even with Derek Fisher also in the picture. McTaggart fields multiple questions on a loaded Astros rotation that will be anchored by Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton, leaving just one spot for Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes. Of the bunch, he suggests that Peacock and McHugh could both see time in the fifth spot, while Musgrove could be shifted to a more permanent ’pen role and Martes could return to Triple-A to continue developing as a starter.
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- With Evan Gattis projected to earn $6.6MM in 2017 and reported interest from the Astros in Jonathan Lucroy, McTaggart also notes within that inbox column that Houston could either non-tender Gattis or try to trade him in advance of Friday’s 8pm ET non-tender deadline. Gattis posted a quality .263/.311/.457 slash in 325 PAs this season but also threw out just four of 39 potential base thieves this season (though he was 13-for-28 in that regard in 2016). With few obvious areas for an upgrade, Houston could conceivably look to add a more significant bat at DH and pursue a backup catching option that is cheaper and/or comes with a better defensive reputation. MLBTR listed Gattis as a potential non-tender candidate this week.
- Now that the Rangers have signed righty Doug Fister, they’re likely to turn their focus to the bullpen for the time being, tweets MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. That’s not to say Texas is through adding to its rotation, but Jon Daniels and his staff will certainly want to see how the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes plays out before determining their next move on the rotation front. In a separate column, Sullivan reports that the Rangers have submitted their response to agent Nez Balelo’s seven-point memo requesting information to help Ohtani make his decision. Daniels tells Sullivan that the Rangers have been following Ohtani for years and awaiting this opportunity, adding that he “feels strongly” about what the Rangers organization has to offer the 23-year-old star. If Texas is ultimately able to add Ohtani, it stands to reason that the team might then choose to spend more aggressively on a non-rotation need. Speculating further, if Ohtani lands elsewhere, that could conceivably cause Texas to more aggressively pursue a big-name rotation upgrade.
- The elbow strain that ended the season of Angels right-hander J.C. Ramirez was a small tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, but Ramirez received positive news on that front this week. Ramirez has already undergone stem cell treatment, and a series of ultrasound exams has left doctors confident that he can avoid surgery. He’ll do some light throwing next week, in fact, and GM Billy Eppler called the recent test results “one of the more positive” outcomes the team could’ve had.