When the Winter Meetings open in National Harbor, Maryland next week, look for the Houston Astros to be one of the big players in free agent deals, big trades, or both.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement could soon be announced between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. If that happens, the Astros could strike even more quickly.
The two biggest free agent names tied to Houston at the moment are a pair of veteran bats, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Beltran.
ENCARNACION AND BELTRAN HISTORY
Encarnacion has spent the last eight seasons of his 12-year big league career with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was an AL All-Star for the third time in 2016 when he hit for a .263/.357/.529 slash. He also produced 42 homers, 34 doubles, 127 RBI, and 99 runs scored.
Beltran was with the New York Yankees for the last three years before moving on to the Texas Rangers this past season in a trade deadline deal for three prospects.
Encarnacion will turn 34 years old in January. In addition to his DH work, he has made first base appearances in anywhere from one-third to one-half of the Blue Jays’ games over the last five seasons.
Beltran turns 40 years old at the end of April. In addition to his own DH work, Beltran has seen plenty of outfield action. He could still play at least part-time on a corner.
ASTROS HAVE ALREADY ADDED FOR 2017
Houston has already made a handful of moves this offseason as the club seeks to return to the postseason. After a 2015 AL Wild Card berth and narrow ALDS loss to the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals, the Astros finished in third place in the AL West in 2016.
Featuring a tremendously talented young core which includes second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa, center fielder George Springer, and third baseman Alex Bregman, the team is looking to add veterans for a serious 2017 push.
To that end, general manager Jeff Luhnow has already added catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Josh Reddick and Nori Aoki, Cuban defector Yulieski Gurriel, and pitcher Charlie Morton.
LUHNOW MORE AGGRESSIVE THIS OFFSEASON
At the GM meetings in early November, Luhnow was quoted by Jeff Kaplan for the Houston Chronicle.
“We’ve always had more of an attitude of wait and see how the market develops and figure out where we can get some value and where we can get players that are complementary,” Luhnow said, per Kaplan. “But now we need to be more aggressive. We need to try and get out in front of some things and secure some players to help us win.”
Luhnow has already demonstrated that new aggressiveness. Expect the Astros to add at least one more big bat in the coming days or weeks.
Such a move could also signal further dealings, such as a trade of Evan Gattis. There is even some speculation that Houston could try to move one of its top kids, perhaps Correa, Bregman, or Springer, in a move to land a big arm such as Chris Sale.
The Astros are not conceding the AL West Division to the talented Texas Rangers. They will be doing everything possible to not only make a run at the division title in 2017, but to position themselves for a run at the first World Series championship in franchise history.