The Astros’ Contention Window May Shut Sooner Than You Think

The Seattle Mariners aren’t going to make the playoffs in 2020. We already knew that. Whether it was a 60 game season or a 162 game season, Seattle just isn’t ready to take that step. And in all likelihood, they won’t in 2021 either. However, 2022 could be the first year of true contention, which just so happens to coincide with the potential demise of the Houston Astros as we currently know them.

The Astros aren’t in a great spot right now, at least in regards to what their franchise will look like after 2021. They’re struggling in 2020 and may very well lose Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna to Tommy John surgery, which could knock both arms out for a chunk of the 2021 season as well. But beyond these potentially serious injuries, the Astros are definitely on the back nine of their first contention window.

They already suffered their first major loss from their magnificent, albeit tainted, run. Gerrit Cole exited stage right to head off to New York, leaving a massive hole in the Astros rotation. But the team is still crazy talented and should be a threat in 2020 (the status of Verlander and Osuna may determine how big of a threat).

However, after the 2020 season, Houston will be faced with a stark reality that they are about to be pilfered. George Springer, the long time outfielder and leadoff man, is set to hit free agency after this year and there are no indications that an extension is on the table. In addition to Springer, Michael Brantley will also enter free agency, as well as Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Brad Peacock, and Chris Devinski.

Roberto Osuna will be a strong non-tender candidate as well. Now Houston may very well re-up a few of these names but they’ll have to spend significant money to do so. They got tremendous value from Springer and Brantley but it’s unlikely they’ll get that same bargin this time around.

But the trouble doesn’t end there. After the 2021 season, Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Carlos Correa, and Osuna (if he isn’t non-tendered in 2020) will all hit the open market as well. Now it’s not like the Astros won’t have the money to pay some of them. But they aren’t the New York Yankees. They’ll have to make some tough choices. They simply can’t pay 3-5 guys $25 million AAV without suffering in other areas.

On top of the flood of pending free agents, the Astros minor league system is pretty barren, thanks to the string of moves they made to bolster their already great roster. But now, without any first or second round picks for the next few years, it will be difficult to restock the cupboard without trading off major assets.

Of course, the Astros won’t be bad in 2022. That roster still should feature Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and a few others, but they won’t have the same level of depth they do now. And with the farm system in it’s current state, they’ll have a tough time trading for the stars they need.

In addition, losing A.J. Hinch and Jeff Lunhow does hurt. Gone are the two men who helped build the juggernaut. In their place stand a placeholder manager and an unproven GM. The writing is on the wall for the Astros. And unless they’re willing to spend like the Dodgers or Yankees, the years of 95+ win seasons may be in the rearview mirror sooner than they want to admit. And that is pretty damn good timing for your Seattle Mariners.

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