After jumping up and making an appearance in the American League Division Series in 2015, the Astros took a step backward last season, finishing third in the AL West while missing the playoffs.
If the first few days of MLB free agency are any indication, the club has higher goals in 2017.
The stove is downright piping, so be sure to keep refreshing Rotoworld's constantly-updating player news page for all the latest. And while you're at it, follow @Rotoworld_BB and @nate_grimm if you are on Twitter.
The Astros have been among the most active teams in the early portion of the offseason, and on Thursday they made a pair of moves aimed at strengthening their lineup from the left side. The team acquired catcher Brian McCann from the Yankees for two pitching prospects Thursday afternoon, and less than an hour later it was reported the club and free agent outfielder Josh Reddick had agreed upon a deal, pending a physical.
Both moves improve the team from its 2016 iteration, but McCann is the marquee get. The 32-year-old batted just .242/.335/.413 this past season, but he's hit at least 20 homers in each of the last nine seasons and is joining a team that got only a combined 55 homers from its left-handed hitters in 2016. For McCann, the Astros gave up right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. The Yankees also agreed to cover roughly one-third of the remaining $34 million left on McCann's contract.
In Houston, it's expected that McCann will catch the bulk of the games. McCann caught 92 of the 130 games in which he appeared in 2016 and the Astros' primary catcher in recent years, Jason Castro, is a free agent this winter. Evan Gattis will likely occupy the designated hitter spot with McCann in town.
Like McCann, Reddick also strengthens a position of vulnerability for the Astros last year. The 29-year-old batted .281/.345/.405 in 115 games between the Athletics and Dodgers, while the Astros got a collective .227/.283/.366 line from their left-fielders -- whom Reddick will ostensibly replace, with George Springer entrenched in the other corner outfield spot -- in 2016. The deal, reported first by Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, is for four years and $52 million.
The moves were the latest for the already-revamped Astros this winter. The team also recently claimed Nori Aoki off waivers from the Mariners and signed Charlie Morton to a two-year, $14 million contract.
Bryant, Trout, Porcello, Scherzer Take Home Hardware
It's award season, and Kate Upton tweets aside, there were few surprises.
On Thursday, Kris Bryant and Mike Trout were named the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues. Bryant received 29 of 30 first-place votes en route to his first MVP award, and Trout, who won his second MVP trophy, was listed first on 19 of 30 ballots. Daniel Murphy received the lone non-Bryant vote in the NL; Mookie Betts, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre all collected first-place votes in the AL.
Things got a little harrier in Wednesday's AL Cy Young announcement, as Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander were downright presidential in their voting totals. Verlander actually received the most first-place votes, registering 14 of the 30, but Porcello, on the strength of second-place votes, took home the hardware. In the National League, Max Scherzer spared some suspense by taking home 25 of 30 first-place votes.
Quick Hits: According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Yankees are "seriously looking" at top designated hitters now, including Carlos Beltran and Edwin Encarnacion. Brian McCann was previously expected to serve as the primary designated hitter in 2017, but the spot is wide open now that he's been traded to the Astros. Beltran would be more of a short-term investment while Encarnacion appears likely to land a deal in the four-year range. Heyman writes that the Yankees have been in touch "with just about all the top hitters" available in the free agent market. They could have a surprise up their sleeve ... Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears from a team source that the Mets "are still strongly in the mix" for free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. "I know he's talked to some people. He's never said that he is coming back, but he's said he loved it here, he's happy here and we'll see," the source said. "He sounded like they were talking to a few teams, not too many." It was reported on Wednesday that the Mets and three other unidentified teams are in on Cespedes. If things progress as planned, Cespedes' representatives are hopeful of a resolution by the end of the Winter Meetings in December. As the top player in a weak free agent class, Cespedes appears likely to land a deal north of $100 million ... According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Marlins have serious interest in free agent Kenley Jansen. What the Marlins really need is starting pitching, but there aren't many options available on that front and Heyman says the club is thinking about "putting together a super pen" instead. Jansen, 29, posted a dominant 1.83 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68 2/3 innings this past season for the Dodgers. He's thought to be seeking something close to $100 million. So is Aroldis Chapman ... Jay Franklin, the agent for Ian Kinsler, said that his client would only waive his partial no-trade clause if he is given a contract extension. Earlier on Wednesday, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that the Dodgers and Tigers were kicking around potentially working out a deal that would send Kinsler to Los Angeles. The veteran second baseman's no-trade clause is not a blanket one, but rather one of the 10-team variety. Said Franklin, "If one of the 10 teams happens to call and wants to talk about it, we’re open to talking about it. (But) they’re going to have to extend him for us to waive the no-trade." The Dodgers are one team on that partial list ... Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are among several teams who have talked with free agent left-hander Derek Holland. It's no surprise, as Derek Holland's agent recently said that the Pirates were on the short list of teams the southpaw is considering. We've seen a number of pitchers get their careers back on track in Pittsburgh, so it's an enticing scenario. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hears that the Yankees and Padres have also reached out. Holland became a free agent after the Rangers declined his $11 million club option for 2017, but he should attract plenty of interest in a weak market for starting pitching. He could try for a one-year deal in hopes of reestablishing his value ... Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Cardinals and Carlos Martinez have had "initial conversations" regarding a contract extension. Things have been moving slowly toward an extension since the close of the regular season, with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold reporting in early October that pitcher and team have mutual interest in getting this done. Don't expect anything on the immediate horizon, though. Both Cotillo and Goold have relayed that these talks will continue into the winter. Goold speculated that an extension could come about in spring training. Martinez -- who posted a 3.04 ERA with a 174/70 K/BB ratio in 195 1/3 innings this past season -- is under team control through 2019 ... Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports that free agent catcher Jason Castro has multiple offers on the table. Cotillo also hears that five teams are in the mix for Castro. Per ESPN's Buster Olney, we know that the Braves are being aggressive in their pursuit. The Twins have also been mentioned as a fit. It sounds like Castro's representatives might be trying to force a quick resolution here ... Ron Gardenhire has been named the new bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona also announced Tony Perezchica as third base coach, Mike Fetters as bullpen coach, and Robby Hammock as quality control coach. Gardenhire was fired from his longtime post as the Twins' manager in September 2014 but worked in Minnesota's front office in 2016 as a special assistant to (former) general manager Terry Ryan.