Astros Free Agency: Biggest Holes to Fill This Offseason
Even though the playoffs are still going on and the 2011 season is not over for eight teams, the Astros can close the books on a very disappointing season. It was the first 100 loss season in the organization's history and there wasn't too much that went right.
The pitching staff is in shambles after Jordan Lyles and Bud Norris who look like two good young pitchers for years to come in Houston. Jose Altuve will be the answer at second base and J.D. Martinez in left for the foreseeable future but that is about it.
Now that the Astros can put the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror, it is time to turn the attention to the future and the upcoming offseason. These are the biggest holes that need to be filled this offseason.
The first step the Astros need to accomplish before they can address anything on the field is the ownership situation. It was back in May that current owner Drayton McLane announced there was a deal in place to sell the Houston Astros to local businessman Jim Crane. Fast forward to present day and the transition to Jim Crane as owner is not completed.
The problem is it is hard to find exactly why it is taking so long to complete the vote by MLB owners to approve Jim Crane into their little club. There are whispers that it is about Crane's checkered past or about Crane's willingness to agree to move the Astros to the American League in the future.
Whatever the problem, this will need to be resolved if the Astros expect to adequately and properly plug the holes on the roster this offseason.
Once the ownership situation is complete, Jim Crane will quickly need to evaluate the front office and specifically GM Ed Wade. If he wants to make changes in the front office, which I would not be surprised if that's the case, Crane needs to get the right person in so that person has time to evaluate the roster and hit the ground running once the offseason begins.
Now with new ownership and their choice of front office personnel in place, the next hole that needs to be filled is the coaching staff. I think Brad Mills can be a pretty good manager for the Astros but the team needs to provide him with a quality support system for it to work.
Back in June, the Astros fired pitching coach Brad Ansberg which was the right move because of how ineffective the pitching was this season. The problem though was they replaced him with Doug Brocail who could be a good pitching coach someday but doesn't have enough experience right now to turn it around.
Brad Mills deserves one more year to show what he can do. He has been dealt a bad hand in each of his first two seasons considering the Astros have traded Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn in that time frame. If Mills is brought back though, the organization will need to work to build a top staff to help Mills right the ship.
Clint Barmes came over to the Astros last offseason when the team traded for him. Well the Astros will once again be looking for a shortstop this offseason as Barmes will be a free agent.
Now Barmes is not a top shortstop and is starting to get up their in age but he did play well down the stretch for the Astros. He seemed to fit well in with this team and could provide some much needed veteran leadership to this young team.
The shortstop position will be one of the big holes that will be addressed over the next few months but I would not be surprised to see Barmes penciled in as the Opening Day starter for the Astros next season.
This is another key position that will need to be address this offseason. Hunter Pence left a bigger hole than many expected when he was traded to the Phillies.
The Astros used a number of different players here including Brian Bogusevic, pictured here, and Jason Bourgeois to fill that gap. No one seized the opportunity and claimed the starting gig so the Astros should be looking at free agent options to fill this need for 2012.
Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
If the Astros only address one hole this offseason on their team it needs to be pitching, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Heading in to 2011, the rotation was suppose to be the strength and help keep the Astros achieve a respectable record. Well Brett Myers and J.A. Happ regressed while Wandy struggled being consistent throughout the season and nothing seemed to go right for this group.
As bad as the starting rotation was, the bullpen was even worse. The Astros had the lowest save percentage in major league baseball with a rate of only 50 percent. They ended up blowing 25 save opportunities this season and if the Astros want to be competitive any time soon this should be priority number one.