Even as the Astros fend off yet another controversy, they’re working to tweak an exceptionally talented roster. And GM Jeff Luhnow says that a key focus for the winter is to buttress a rotation that stands to lose key pieces to free agency, as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle writes.
That’s not exactly surprising; it was obvious that something would need to be done with ace Gerrit Cole and sturdy veteran Wade Miley departing, to say nothing of Collin McHugh and (likely) Aaron Sanchez. Even with Lance McCullers Jr. slated to return — with Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, and Josh James also options to join Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke — there’s a dearth of reliable innings on hand. But it was not entirely clear just how the ’Stros would go about filling in.
Luhnow made clear that the organization would like to come away from the hot stove season with multiple veteran additions to the rotation mix. “I’d prefer to have two because more options is better,” he said, “but it’s going to come down to what we can actually get done and what our value proposition is.”
It doesn’t sound as if the Astros necessarily feel a need to add a pair of surefire starters. Luhnow spoke of a “need to build that list” of “eight or nine guys competing for five spots.” And he noted that some additions could be promised a starting spot, while others might be brought into compete for one.
As Rome highlights, there’s an interesting question here for Luhnow — or, perhaps, for owner Jim Crane. The team has expressed a desire not to move past the luxury tax line, but that doesn’t leave much free payroll to work with. And Luhnow again emphasized a desire to avoid tying up too much future spending capacity, saying: “In general, the more flexibility we give ourselves in the future, the better off we’re going to be as an organization.”
There are numerous directions the Astros could take here. It’ll obviously depend upon the opportunities available — the “value proposition,” as Luhnow frames it — along with the team’s willingness to spend and decisions on investing in other areas of need. Landing the next Miley or Charlie Morton would surely be ideal, though that requires both the identification of an undervalued asset and the ability to reach agreement before another team swoops in. There are quite a few notable hurlers entering free agency this winter. It’ll be fascinating to see how the ’Stros end up engaging the rotation market.