The Astros Consider Trading for Pete Alonso to Strengthen First Base Position
The Houston Astros have enjoyed a remarkable run of success over the past nine years, thanks to their commitment to staying on the cutting edge of baseball operations. From the draft to player development to player evaluations, the Astros have consistently outperformed their competition. This approach has allowed them to take a patient approach to personnel decisions, always keeping their “competitive window” open.
However, recent changes in the Astros’ operating philosophy have led to a decline in their innovative and efficient approach. In order to maximize their chances of success in the upcoming seasons, it may be time for General Manager Dana Brown to address one of Houston’s weakest positions: First Base. And the best option to do so could be trading for New York Mets’ slugger Pete Alonso.
Jose Abreu’s Decline and the Need for Improvement
While the Astros technically have a first baseman in Jose Abreu, his performance has been lackluster, especially considering his negative Wins Above Replacement (WAR) season and his age of 37. It is unlikely that Abreu will bounce back to even a league-average first baseman. Despite his playoff performance, the sample size must be considered. Additionally, Abreu’s hefty salary of almost $20 million should not factor into the decision-making process, as it is a sunk cost. The Astros cannot afford to continue with sub-replacement production at First Base.
Pete Alonso: A Massive Improvement
Pete Alonso, with a career Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 133 and an average of over three WAR per year in the past two seasons, would be a significant upgrade for the Astros. In the previous two seasons, Astros’ first basemen performed below replacement level, highlighting the need for improvement. Alonso’s addition would likely result in several additional wins for the team.
Reconfiguring the Lineup and Maximizing Chances
With the departure of Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu could fill in as a bench bat or designated hitter. Abreu’s improved performance after recovering from lower back pain suggests that he may no longer be suited for a full 162-game season. Considering the nature of lower back pain, it is unlikely to improve with age and use.
While most Astros fans agree that Alonso would enhance the team’s chances in 2024, the cost of acquiring him remains a crucial factor. The amount of salary the Mets are willing to send over will determine the Astros’ financial commitment. Assuming the Mets do not contribute financially, the Astros would likely have to pay Alonso $22 million for his last year of arbitration. This would put the team’s payroll only eight million over the luxury tax, a reasonable price for a revenue-leading team. By taking on Alonso’s salary, the Astros can avoid sending a significant haul of players to the Mets in return.
Considering Alonso’s projected performance of three wins next season and his salary, the Astros would likely only need to part ways with either Dubon or Meyers and possibly a top-20 prospect. However, it is more likely that the Mets would take on most of Alonso’s salary, resulting in the Astros trading top-10 prospect Brice Matthews and either Meyers or Dubon. While this may seem like mortgaging the future, the Astros have already made significant moves in that direction. Trading for Alonso would maximize their chances of winning another pennant in 2024. Additionally, by sending more prospects to the Mets for a reduced salary, the Astros can allocate that money towards signing additional starting pitching depth.
Exploring Alternatives and Focusing on Starting Pitching
Another option for the Astros would be to utilize their prospect and salary capital to acquire a starting pitcher. However, this trade package would likely only yield a middle-of-the-rotation starter, a position in which the Astros already have considerable depth. The incremental value of adding a bona fide middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher is far less than the impact of adding Pete Alonso at first base.
While the Astros currently have eleven potential starting pitchers for next year, it is crucial to add another. However, the most cost-effective approach would be to acquire a bottom-of-the-rotation type pitcher, such as Spencer Turnbull.
The Astros’ Dilemma: Long-Term Approach vs. Immediate Success
Ideally, the Astros would take a long-term approach to success, prioritizing a competitive edge in baseball operations by hiring front-office personnel with a strong analytics background. However, owner Jim Crane has shifted away from this philosophy