The Astros have already crossed one item off their to-do list this winter, re-signing setup man Rafael Montero to a three-year pact. They reportedly had strong interest in first baseman Anthony Rizzo before he re-signed with the Yankees, and while they still have a hole at first base, they’re also in the market for a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Outfield help is a natural target for the Astros, who saw Michael Brantley go down with a season-ending shoulder injury this summer (which ultimately required surgery). He’s now a free agent, leaving the Astros’ projected outfield mix consisting of right fielder Kyle Tucker, center field options Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers, and designated hitter/occasional left fielder Yordan Alvarez.
The 25-year-old Alvarez did log a career-high 467 innings in left field this season, and if the team were to commit to playing him more regularly there, the search could expand to include lefty-swinging corner outfielders and designated hitters. That said, Alvarez has had multiple knee surgeries in the past, despite his youth, so it’s sensible enough if the team prefers to limit his time on the field to help keep his bat in the lineup.
Brantley himself would ostensibly be an option, of course. He said late in the season that he expects to be ready for Spring Training, and if that’s the case, there aren’t many better bets in the “professional hitter” category than the five-time All-Star. Over the past five seasons, Brantley has batted a combined .307/.367/.465 with 57 home runs, 134 doubles and eight triples in 2240 plate appearances. He’s fanned in just 10.6% of those trips to the plate and walked at an eight percent clip as well.
Generally speaking, it’s not a great free-agent market for outfielders this winter. Aaron Judge, of course, is the top free agent, while center fielder Brandon Nimmo ranks a distant second. Beyond that pair, there are plenty of options to peruse, but the majority come with some degree of red flag.
If Houston prefers to pursue a younger option, any of Andrew Benintendi, Cody Bellinger or Joey Gallo could make sense — although the latter two are particularly dependent on Houston’s appetite for taking on a rebound candidate. Both Gallo and Bellinger have seen their once prodigious offensive profiles tank in recent seasons. Bellinger is likely available on a one-year deal as he looks to rebuild some stock. Benintendi, meanwhile, saw his…