Houston Astros need more than just Michael Brantley’s addition

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

After making a blockbuster trade last offseason, the Houston Astros have been relatively quiet this winter. The addition of Michael Brantley could be the start of a stretch of signings for the former champions.

The Houston Astros have found their newest slugger, one that is much-needed. But they still have vacancies that must be filled, both in the starting rotation and in the lineup.

Houston just closed a two-year deal with former Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley on Monday. Although the veteran has endured consecutive injury-riddled seasons, he is still a proficient hitter that can enjoy a comeback campaign in 2019.

And that’s exactly what general manager Jeff Luhnow hopes to see.

Nevertheless, one of the top-10 offenses in baseball will need more firepower to reach the same heights in 2019. The Astros need to replace production from guys like Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis.

Houston’s two weakest positions hitting-wise were the ones the front office is filling. Astros designated hitters ranked 10th of 15 teams in OPS, while left fielders ranked in the bottom 10 in that category.

Based on how this offseason has been, it’s easier said than done to replace anyone in the lineup. Yet, Brantley should help in the heart of the lineup.

Brantley played in 101 games combined across 2016 and 2017, but he thrived in 2018, posting an All-Star season. The 31-year-old boasted the second-highest on-base percentage in his career last year, as well as his third-highest OPS.

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The top of the order seems set with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman. But Brantley fits in as a solid fifth or sixth hitter. He will be a solid complement to the team’s core bats.

There are still several options to place in the few open spots in the Astros lineup. Given that top prospect Kyle Tucker will likely handle left field, that’s one lesser vacancy to fill.

Yet, an additional slugger, such as Nelson Cruz, could be warranted. Luhnow may not push for A.J. Pollock, arguably the most underrated free agent still on the market. But he can search for a cheaper outfield/designated hitter moonlighter, possibly Matt Adams or even Carlos Gonzalez.

However, manager A.J. Hinch and company must decide whether to focus primarily on the pitching staff or the offense. Three of last year’s starters will likely not be in 2019 rotation.

But the available options are particularly appealing either, as the marquee names have already signed elsewhere. Another blockbuster pitching trade could be in the works. And Houston can arguably prevail with younger arms, such as Josh James and Forrest Whitley.

Houston picked Forrest Whitley over James Paxton. dark. Next

No matter what the Astros decide, one idea remains clear. This isn’t the end of Houston’s offseason.