The Houston Astros' season ended on a low note with two straight home losses to their cross-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. Now, the reigning champs in Houston will reign for only a short while longer. Then, a long and difficult path back to the mountaintop awaits.
It's not difficult to establish the first order of business for Houston's front office. Dusty Baker is retiring after a historic career, which culminated with the Astros' World Series victory in 2022. Baker is obviously an integral part of the organization, beloved both inside and outside the locker room.
It will be borderline impossible to find a coach with Baker's credibility, but the Astros will have to find an adept mind who can get the most out of an explosive roster. The core pieces are still in place, at least through next season. Yordan Alvarez has earned Big Papi comparisons. Jose Altuve is as clutch as it gets. Alex Bregman. Kyle Tucker. Justin Verlander. Framber Valdez. The star power is undeniable.
Still, in addition to a new strategic mind at the helm, Houston will have to make a few tough decisions in free agency. Here are the players who won't be back — and a couple who are destined to stick around.
Phil Maton will leave the Astros for a better contract
The Astros need help in the bullpen and there's reason to believe the team would have interest in bringing a solid arm like Phil Maton back. On the other hand, it projects to be a lucrative free agency period for relievers, so Maton will have a long line of suitors.
Houston should probably prioritize upgrades instead of rehashing the same group. Plus, there's a noticeable lack of lefties in the bullpen. The team would sacrifice Maton with a goal to better balance the rotation with more variety.
Maton thrives in the arena of soft contact, as FanSided's Drew Koch points out. He's a great pitcher for a great defense. A team with a rock-solid infield would be wise to come knocking.
For the season, Maton put together a respectable 3.00 ERA and 1.121 WHIP. He appeared in 68 games (66.0 innings pitched), giving up 49 hits, 25 walks, and 27 runs with 74 strikeouts.