What will the Houston Astros do at first base in 2023? There are no easy answers for the defending World Champions, who enter the first full week of the offseason with both potential veteran answers at the position looking for new contracts.
Will the Houston Astros bring back Yuli Gurriel for the 2023 season?
A seven-year member of the Astros and part of two World Series champions, the 38-year-old Gurriel enters the offseason looking to see if he can extend his career. Gurriel was playing outstanding baseball when he was injured in the fifth game of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, with that knee injury sidelining him for the clinching Game 6.
Gurriel was slashing .347/.360/.490 with a pair of homers in 49 postseason at-bats, giving Houston another weapon in what was a loaded 2022 lineup.
When Gurriel was unable to play in Game 6, Trey Mancini took over at first base. Acquired at the trade deadline in a three-team deal, Mancini struggled mightily in the postseason, going just 1-for-21. With that in mind, perhaps it’s no surprise that the 30-year-old Mancini’s $10 million option for 2023 was declined.
It’s very possible that the Astros would work to bring both back for 2023, with Gurriel perhaps being offered a one-year deal with a chance to assist in a repeat run and Mancini being offered a lower, short-term deal to bounce between first base and designated hitter. In that scenario, Mancini would likely look elsewhere, capitalizing on a potential repeat of his pre-trade numbers in Baltimore (.268/.347/.404 with 10 homers and 41 RBI) to land with another team and earn more playing time.
On the whole, if Houston chooses to remain with its familiar options rather than searching the free agent market, Gurriel returning seems like a much better play for the Astros. With news that manager Dusty Baker and general manager James Click expected to return in 2023 (and both also likely on one-year deals), bringing back Gurriel on a one-year deal makes sense on a lot of levels.
But is that what Houston will do? First base is a position to watch the Astros this offseason.