At the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, California, Astros’ general manager James Click spoke to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle about the team’s shortstop vacancy, although he claims not to see it that way.
Most of Houston’s playing time at shortstop over the past seven seasons has gone to Carlos Correa, who is now a free agent. The club reportedly made Correa an offer before he hit the open market, although it apparently fell well short of the industry expectations surrounding his earning power. The five-year, $160MM offer was exactly half of MLBTR’s recent prediction of 10 years and $320MM, making it not terribly surprising that Correa didn’t trip over himself to get out his pen.
In the article, Rome opines that the offer is merely a way for the front office to claim that they made an effort, and then pivot to free agents that can be had on short-term deals, or no free agents at all, with the aim of keeping the position available to be claimed by prospect Jeremy Pena. Due to wrist surgery, Pena only played 30 games at Triple-A this year, but they went very well. The 24-year-old hit .287/.346/.598, for a wRC+ of 126. He comes in at #42 on the FanGraphs list of top prospects across the league, although he doesn’t crack the top 100 at Baseball America or MLB Pipeline.
Until his arrival at the big leagues, the club could consider the in-house option of Aledmys Diaz, as Click describes him as “more than qualified” to take the job. Diaz has a lot of time at shortstop on his resume, but not recently, just 14 games in the last three seasons. That lack of recent work at short and his roughly league-average offense over the past two seasons would certainly be a downgrade from Correa, who is elite on both sides of the ball.
One option not being taken seriously, however, is moving Alex Bregman from this base to shortstop. When asked about that option, Click said, “I would highly doubt it” and later added, “I don’t want to get too cute by half and try to jam a square peg into a round hole.” Bregman was primarily a shortstop before reaching the big leagues, sliding to third because of the presence of Correa. He saw some significant time there in 2019 when Correa was hurt, getting into 65 games, but hasn’t played there since. The move doesn’t seem to be totally off the table, though, as Click added that he “would have to talk to Alex about it.”
In a separate post, Rome speaks to Click about the pitching situation, with Click saying that the bullpen is a bigger need than the rotation. “I know that people have started probably mentally thinking of Cristian Javier as a reliever, but we don’t think that way,” Click says, “and having him as a starting pitching option is very real for us and creates a lot more depth.” Including Javier as a starter certainly does make the rotation look healthy, with Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Jake Odorizzi all on hand as viable options. The club also has an outstanding $18.4 qualifying offer in front of Justin Verlander at the moment, although based on the success of his recent showcase, the odds seem to be in favour of him declining and exploring the market. Click himself spoke positively about Verlander’s performance at the showcase, as relayed by Alden Gonzalez of ESPN. Odorizzi’s level of participation seems to be a question mark, however, as Rome details how the hurler wasn’t happy with his usage at times, displeased with the club’s hesitance at letting him face a batting order for a third time. He’s entering his final guaranteed year as an Astro but has a player option for 2023.
Elsewhere in Astros land, the club got some bad news regarding Jake Meyers, per Rome. Meyers left game four of the ALDS with a shoulder injury and never returned. He recently had surgery to repair a labral tear and isn’t expected to be playing by Opening Day 2022. That will hurt the club’s center field depth, as they had traded away Myles Straw at the deadline, in part because Meyers was ready to step up and take his place. The plan went very well before the injury, as Meyers hit .260/.323/.438 for a wRC+ of 111 in 49 games, along with a good showing in four postseason games. As long as Meyers is on the shelf, Houston’s top options in center will likely be Chas McCormick and Jose Siri, although moving Kyle Tucker from right to center is also on the table. “We have to decide, ‘Do we want to consider moving Kyle to center and then going shopping for a corner guy?’” Click said, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic. “‘Do we want to have Kyle in center and have Chas and Siri and Yordan and Brantley be kind of rotating through all those spots?’” The market for free agent center fielders isn’t strong, with Starling Marte representing the only true everyday option. The market for corner outfielders, however, has many more exciting options. If the club feels comfortable with Tucker up the middle, it could make sense to take that route. At the big league level, he’s only played five regular season games in center in his career, although he saw some time there this postseason after Meyers got hurt.