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On the Astros: The Astros need solid starters too

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Trading for Brian McCann and signing Josh Reddick is about rounding out a lineup, not finding a star

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros didn’t need a star this winter.

I know, I know.

That goes against any and all fan offseason prognosticating. All the energy goes into lusting after Edwin Encarnacion, Miguel Cabrera or Chris Sale.

And, yet, building a team isn’t that easy.

It can be. The Astros in 2004 didn’t need another star. They had Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman and Jeff Kent. Yet, they still traded half the farm for Carlos Beltran and never looked back.

This particular Astros team, though. It didn’t need another star.

This team has Carlos Correa. It has the third-best player in the American League last year. It has a third banana in right field (center field?) who could be the best player on half the teams around the league.

This team added another budding superstar from the farm last June. It also added one of the best players from Cuba in the last decade.

After that core trio, adding stars becomes a luxury. Houston doesn’t need offensive leaders who can bang out 5-6 WAR seasons. The Astros need guys who can plug away to make the offense more consistent.

That’s what makes Thursday’s moves sensible. Brian McCann doesn’t need to be Peak McCann. He just needs to give Houston above-average offense at catcher. He needs to give Houston a potent left-handed bat down the lineup.

Josh Reddick doesn’t need to be a thumper in the cleanup spot. He just needs to make more contact than Colby Rasmus.

Quick question: how many regular players other than Correa, Altuve and Springer have posted on-base percentages above .320 since 2013?

Three.

You can look it up. Dexter Fowler in 2014. Jason Castro in 2013. The immortal Bob Grossman in 2014.

Every offense needs the superstar addition. But what Houston needed were solid players, guys who can create base traffic when Altuve goes into a three-game slump. Both McCann and Reddick fit that mold.

Reddick, on a four-year deal, isn’t the surest bet. He’s no one’s idea of an offensive answer. But, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for him over the life of the contract show him topping that .320 OBP mark every season. If he adds 20 home runs, all the better.

Ditto for McCann, who sports a career .340 OBP and has been at .320 or better in three out of the last four seasons.

There are lots of good offensive stats, but players who get on base can help steady an offense, even when the power is struggling or the BABIP fairies are fickle.

We know that McCann isn’t quite as good as Jason Castro in the publicly available framing statistics, but he’s close. And he’s also topped Castro in wRC+ by about 20 percent for the last three years.

We also haven’t considered Houston signing Charlie Morton, which also fits this pattern. Morton isn’t a high-profile name. His contract also doesn’t break the bank for starting pitchers.

But, he’s a solid option to eat innings in the middle of that rotation. With all the injury problems Houston dealt with in the rotation last year, having another arm in the middle of that mix is nice.

No one is going to be excited about these moves. They’re not flashy. But they are effective at rounding out Houston’s roster.

They’re the kinds of moves good teams make to push their roster to the next level. And, more importantly, the Astros’ offseason isn’t over yet.