The Astros have what it takes to stay at the top of the AL.
While the answer to the title is no, there are several things to consider. This Astros have the players to fill out the 25-man roster, but they would be relying on several young players in significant roles. As the roster sits, the Astros should be able to hold off the Athletics in the AL West. However, can they beat the Red Sox or Yankees to make it back to the Fall Classic? Were the Red Sox the better team in 2018 and who will triumph in 2019?
Right after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2018, Vegas already had the Astros as the favorites to win in 2019. According to Ryan Murphy, the odds favoring the Astros winning the AL Pennant are high, but are they high enough? You can refer to this article on odds for the 2019 American League Pennant. To give you a hint, the AL Pennant will go through Houston, Boston, or New York.
If the Astros are among the favorites, why should they add more players? To remain one of the three elite teams in the AL, they have to be prepared to add some more talent. The areas they could look to add to is at catcher, designated hitter, or a third starter. All the positions have the depth to cover, but the players are still relatively unproven.
If you look at the catching position, they did sign Robinson Chirinos, but he has been a career platoon catcher. We saw Max Stassi lose playing time towards the end of 2018, but he is out of options. He would have to clear waivers to be optioned down to Triple-A. After injuries hindered his career, Stassi will be trying to hold off prospect Garrett Stubbs.
The two catchers could do the job in the first half of 2019, but Chirinos has only topped 100 games played once. In 2018, he played in 113 games, but his previous high was 93 games in 2014 via Baseball-Reference. Stubbs could spend some time in Triple-A, and be called up when needed. You can understand why the Astros continue to be linked to J.T. Realmuto in rumors. However, the Marlins are asking for MLB’s 5th or 8th top overall prospects in Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley via MLB Pipeline.
Upgrade for the rotation?
After depending on the offense in 2017 to win the World Series, but shifted gears in 2018 with the pitching staff carrying the team. When Charlie Morton was the fifth starter, that shows how deep the rotation was. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Morton were large reasons why the Astros won 103 games in 2018. Unfortunately, 3/5 of that rotation are not on the roster.
Keuchel is still searching for a new home via free agency, while Morton signed a two-year deal with the Rays. Lance McCullers is out for the season following Tommy John surgery, which further thins the rotation. They still have Verlander and Cole to lead the rotation. Collin McHugh will also return to the rotation, but Framber Valdez and Josh James look to join the rotation. Both rookies got off to a strong start in 2017, but the Astros would like to add a third starter.
The Astros look for Whitley to become part of the rotation at some point in 2019. Not saying the Astros don’t trust the three young pitchers, but they would like to add a veteran starter to eat up some innings. There are several options on the trade market, which is where the front office will try first. With Rogelio Armenteros and Corbin Martin rising, the minor depth is good in the rotation, but another arm wouldn’t hurt.
Do they need a new DH?
While many people would disagree, the Astros will look to upgrade at DH or first base. Tyler White looks to be the incumbent DH, but new addition Aledmys Diaz could get some at-bats at DH. They chose not to add the DH only player in Nelson Cruz, but they could be looking at other options who could play a position.
They could look at players like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Martinez, or a free agent bat. They have the talent to cover all these positions, but they are still looking to put the best talent on the field. If they want to be World Series ready, they need to add a couple more pieces.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are adding pieces left and right and could be after Manny Machado. The Red Sox haven’t done much but did re-sign Nathan Eovaldi. Neither team had the mass exodus that the Astros did, but it is just January.
Jeff Luhnow has the talent on the roster to wait patiently for the right trade or signing. If they don’t make another move this offseason, just remember that they traded for Verlander in August of 2017. They can always add at the trade deadline, but it would be cheaper now to make that move.