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What the 2023 Deadline Tells Us About the Offseason

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I have plenty of thoughts about how the deadline affects the Astros for the rest of the season and the postseason. The team now has the SP depth to skip Hunter Brown a turn or two, give everyone 5 days rest and maybe more, and offer some relief to the bullpen. And if Dusty trusts Graveman, the deadline gives him the flexibility to take it easy on Abreu and Maton. But that’s not why you clicked on the headline.

The Astros made two significant deals to bolster their pitching at the cost of two prospects who could have made an impact next season, and a third who might be the next Matt Olson. We’ll forever debate who won this trade until Drew Gilbert retires. Here are three immediate outcomes that the Astros’s deadline might have on the offseason:

  1. Say goodby to Hector Neris? As in the Luhnow days, the Astros still don’t like rentals. Graveman and JV are also on the 2024 team, thus bolstering the payroll another 30 million. The Astros also have three untradable contracts: McCullers, Abreu, and Montero (there’s a chance Montero could be moved if he has a great final two months, but even then it would likely be a salary dump). Neris will be 35 next season and has a team option at 8.5 million. That’s right about what Graveman will get. The Astros might simply look at places to cut salary and waive goodbye to Hector. Relievers are volatile and if they keep him they’re paying 42 million for their top 4 relievers.
  2. The OF glut will be addressed by making a trade for a reliever. Corey Julks will eventually hit again, and at least one team outside of Houston considers him a viable 4th OF. Meyers’ defense is so good that a team like Oakland or KC may be willing to roll the dice & trade relief depth for someone who could be a 3 WAR regular. The most telling part of the deadline is that the Astros couldn’t pull off a 4 quarters/dollar trade for Graveman. You have to believe that Dirden, Leon, Barber, Zach Daniels, Joey Loperfido, and Kennedy Corona were on the table, and with the exception maybe of Loperfido, Dana Brown would have gladly shed two or more of those guys to keep Clifford. Can one or more of those names provide in 2024 what Julks has done this year? Or what Julks and Meyers have done? The 2023 Astros have been saved by depth that nobody thought they had (France, Bielak, Blanco, Julks, Meyers, Dubon). What they lack are upper level bullpen options. It would make sense for Dana Brown to use some of these pieces, either those at MLB or those on the cusp, to get a bullpen arm or a catcher. But without Gilbert in the mix, the margin of error is much narrower.
  3. A catcher will need to be purchased. Lee is a solid defensive catcher who couldn’t decide whether he was a power hitter or a contact hitter and ended up looking bad at both.Lee’s value did not exist in a vacuum. Lee was the one viable option to share duties with Yainer Diaz. Every other catching prospect has fallen on their face: Berryhill was injured and when healthy hasn’t hit much; JC Correa hit even less. Miguel Palma has only played 42 games, mostly at Asheville, and has shown less power than last year. Deep dark horse prospect Sandro Gaston destroyed the DSL last year (SLG .698) as an old-for-the-level Cuban signee. They moved him all the way to A ball where he’s hit one more home run than I have. In short, there’s nobody. The Astros will either need to sign a cheap platoon-type catcher (Yainer doesn’t look like he can catch 130 games/season), or trade for one. (The mere thought of bringing Maldy back, the regular with the 5th lowest fWAR of those accruing more than 250 PAs, is enough to make me vomit Abreu, fyi, has the 9th lowest fWAR).

The emergence of Yainer, France, and Chas have been godsends and have given a stability both to the current team and to future contingency planning. What happens the rest of the season will certainly impact the offseason more than what transpired in the last five days, but a picture is certainly coming into view.