Why the Astros will repeat as World Champs in 2018
Fresh off their amazing World Series run, the Houston Astros are busy celebrating, but if we look ahead to the 2018 MLB season I have to admit, it will be tough for another team to take them down in 2018. Repeats aren’t easy, the last team to do it came nearly two decades ago (Yankees 99-00).
There are some teams, however, who stand a better chance of repeating than others, and it’s hard not to put the Astros in that category. It’s all about the age and development of the core. Let’s run down the key Astros contributors with an eye toward how long they can be expected to be in Houston and contributing at a high level:
Yuli Gurriel- The 33-year-old rookie will turn 34 next June so his playing days are somewhat numbered. Still, he was a key contributor this season, hitting .299/.332/.486 with 18 homers. He signed a five-year deal with Houston in July of last year which keeps him under Astros control through 2020.
Jose Altuve- He should be the 2017 AL MVP and if he isn’t it’s a travesty. Despite his three batting titles and long tenure, Altuve is actually several months younger than George Springer and will not turn 28 until May. Based on service time he’d be entering free agency right now, but he signed a team-friendly contract extension in 2013 that has him locked up with a $6 million club option for next season and a $6.5 million option for 2019. Unless he’s hit by a bus tomorrow, both options will be exercised.
Carlos Correa- One of the youngest Astros at age 23, he missed a lot of time due to torn thumb ligament, he put up MVP-esque rate stats, hitting .315/.391/.550 with 24 homers in 109 games while playing a fine shortstop. He doesn’t even hit arbitration for another year and will be under team control through the 2021 season.
Alex Bregman- Houston’s third baseman had a coming out party to the rest of the country during the postseason, with several defensive gems. He’s coming off of his first full season and does not turn 24 until around Opening Day. He has two more years of league minimum salaries, or something close to it, before becoming arbitration eligible and will be under team control for three years after that.
George Springer- The World Series MVP is 28 now and he still has several years of peak production left. He also has three years of arbitration left — he was a Super Two — and will not be a free agent until after the 2020 season.
Josh Reddick- Coming off of a fine age-30 season, he is under contract through 2020.
Marwin Gonzalez- The Astros super utlilityman became a permanent left fielder in the postseason, but he can play any position and was the Astros leading RBI-man in 2017. He avoided arbitration with a deal last winter that gives the Astros a reasonable team option on him for this 2018. He’ll be a free agent after next season.
Dallas Keuchel- The Astros number one starter until Justin Verlander came to town has one more year of arbitration ahead of him and will be a free agent after the 2018 season barring a contract extension. He’ll turn 30 in January.
Justin Verlander- He’s got two guaranteed years left on the contract the Tigers gave him at $28 million per, and could get another year at $22 million in 2020 if he finishes in the top five in the Cy Young voting in 2019. If what we saw from him after the trade is indication of a career renaissance as opposed to just a nice little change-of-scenery surge, it’s not crazy to imagine him getting it. The Astros, of course, would probably welcome that “problem.”
Lance McCuller Jr.- This postseason’s Captain Curveball just turned 24 a month ago and just finished his third season. He won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2018 season and is under team control through 2021. The only question is whether or not his arm will hold up with all the strain he puts on it.
Brad Peacock- Arbitration eligible but should easily remain with the team and is a solid back-end of the rotation piece.
Collin McHugh- Look above to Peacock, McHugh is the exact same.
Ken Giles- He is arbitration eligible and will remain with the team for a third season–his rough play will make Luhnow and the Astros look to bolster their bullpen including the possibility of adding a better or more reliable closer.
- All of the players listed are free agents and most are unlikely to return to the club. All of those guys have had their moments, but none of them are essential to an Astros repeat.
Derek Fisher- He had some nice moments in limited major league play in 2017–he could turn into an everyday starter in the outfield in 2018.
Kyle Tucker- He is knocking on the door for a major league call-up. Tucker put up an .874 OPS across high-A and Double-A ball this year. He’ll turn 21 in January.
Francis Martes- He had some rough outings in 2017, but the potential is there to be a middle of the pack starter in their rotation.
The Astros are not a perfect team. You can piggyback starters on top of starters in the World Series, but you can’t play 162 games without using their relievers. They’ll have to address their bullpen this offseason. GM Jeff Luhnow is willing to do what it takes to make his ballclub stronger–and that’s exactly what I expect him to do.
But the Astros are well set up to contend for a long time. Of that there can be no doubt. So get used to seeing them in October, folks. They’re not going anywhere.