The Houston Astros have been the talk of the baseball world for several seasons now.
After winning the 2017 World Series, the organization went from loved to hated when its massive sign-stealing scandal got exposed.
That’s something most MLB fans will never let go.
But for Houston, the only way is forward.
The franchise is trying (and succeeding) at putting a winning product on the field.
The question is this: How much longer will the team be able to keep it up?
Well, we’re going to try to answer that question today.
If the organization makes a few key moves, Houston could find itself in a great position to contend for many years.
Priority Move No. 3: Replace Zack Greinke And Justin Verlander This Offseason, Or Retain One/Both Of Them
If the Astros want their rotation to be their identity beyond 2021, they’re going to have some work to do in the upcoming offseason.
It's crazy that Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer, and Greinke are all due to become free agents this winter. There's 277 WAR, 9 Cy Youngs, and 2 MVPs between them. Those four are the Mount Rushmore of pitchers from the last fifteen years or so. They're also all future Hall of Famers.
— Foolish Baseball (@FoolishBB) May 5, 2021
And sure, Houston’s rotation probably has enough reliable arms to move forward without those two, but the team is a lot better when they’re around.
Both players’ futures in Houston might ultimately become a question of financial flexibility.
We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
Greinke, 37, has a 3.69 ERA over 23 starts this season.
It does seem like age is starting to become a factor for him, so Houston might want to be careful in contract talks.
Verlander, on the other hand, has not pitched this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late last year.
The last time we saw him pitch a full season was in 2019.
That year, he managed 21 wins, a 2.58 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 0.80 WHIP en route to the American League Cy Young Award.
Needless to say, that’s a guy you want to have around until he has got nothing left.
But again: Finances might become an issue, and we’re about to explain why.
Priority Move No. 2: Re-Sign Carlos Correa
The Astros’ extension talks with Carlos Correa hit a wall earlier this year, and the two sides will now have to try to work something out in free agency.
Here’s where things get tricky: The organization might have to spend its money wisely between Correa, Greinke, and Verlander.
If push comes to shove, Correa should be the top priority.
He is just 26 years old, so Houston should do everything in its power to keep him around for as long as possible.
The former first-round pick has become one of the faces of the franchise—for better or worse.
But at the end of the day, there’s no denying that his track record speaks for itself.
He is a career .275 hitter with an OPS of .834 and an OPS+ of 127.
Good morning. pic.twitter.com/KBuMl8zCcw
— Michael Schwab (@michaelschwab13) August 5, 2021
He has been named to two All-Star teams, and of course, he led the Astros to an infamous World Series title in 2017.
You don’t have to like him, but by almost every measure, he’s a great big-league player.
The Astros would have a major hole to fill in their infield if Correa were to sign elsewhere.
Priority Move No. 1: Replenish The Farm System
The Astros have an abysmal farm system, and it needs to be addressed.
Right now, MLB.com thinks the organization has the second-worst farm system in baseball.
Sustainable success comes from developing young talent, and the Astros seem to struggle in that department.
To make matters worse, Houston recently lost its lone top-100 prospect (Forrest Whitley) to Tommy John surgery.
That certainly doesn’t help the cause.
Going forward, the Astros should be very hesitant to attach highly-touted prospects in trades.
The organization might never replenish its farm if promising prospects are constantly on the move.