Houston Astros: Assessing team chemistry on Opening Day

Houston Astros infielders Carlos Correa and Tyler White (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Houston Astros infielders Carlos Correa and Tyler White (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

After a rough 2-5 road trip, the Houston Astros find themselves in a bit of a team chemistry crisis as the countdown to the home opener begins.

There’s the old saying that no team is the exact same every year. While true, it does present certain problems in maintaining your status as a competitive team. And right now, the Houston Astros are feeling it with a slight shift in team chemistry.

These first seven games in the first full week of the regular season have proven difficult for the spacemen. They dropped three out of four games to the Tampa Bay Rays at the Trop, and are coming off a brutal two out of three series loss to the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

Thankfully, most of the players are taking the starting road trip well. Take Josh Reddick for instance, in a tweet he sent out just last night:

The self-proclaimed Spider-Man does have a point. There are still 155 more games to be played in the regular season. The ebbs and flows of a sport like baseball are certainly very prevalent, especially this early.

Nevertheless, team chemistry is a very important thing. The last two Houston Astros‘ squads had a great deal of it. There may be a couple of reasons for this.

1. Agents of Shield

Not a single free agent from the Houston Astros 2018 squad was retained or even sought after. There were seven players out of the 25 on the main roster last season. For context, here are where those players as of this writing:

  1. Dallas Keuchel – Remains unsigned.
  2. Marwin Gonzalez – Signed a one-year/$21 million deal with the Minnesota Twins.
  3. Tony Sipp – Signed a one-year/$1.25 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
  4. Charlie Morton – Signed a two-year/$30 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
  5. Brian McCann – Signed a one-year/$2 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.
  6. Martin Maldonado – Signed a one-year/$2.5 million deal with the Kansas City Royals.
  7. Evan Gattis – Remains unsigned. (This one personally hurts my heart the most, no surprises there.)

Although Maldonado wasn’t with the World Champion squad in 2017, he was a big part of last year’s squad that made it to the ALCS. Given what all of these players have done in their respective careers, this is a huge core to lose. Additionally, it puts a dent in veteran presence and team chemistry on the whole.

Doing the math while also factoring in what Keuchel and Gattis would have been worth, Jim Crane could have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of about $75 million to keep these free agents around for at least one more season. Instead, he opted to extend Alex Bregman for six years and $100 million, Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million and Ryan Pressly for two years at a clip of $17.5 million. Final price tag: $183.5 million.

2. Forever Young?

Another reason that the Houston Astros team chemistry may be in jeopardy is the inconsistent

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offseason moves. Yes, pickups like Michael Brantley and Wade Miley were significant for the team. And yes, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressley and Justin Verlander certainly have earned extensions.

However, some legitimate questions arise from these moves. Should those extensions have happened so quickly, given that Bregman was going to be on the team through 2022 to begin with? Would it not have been better to spend less money to retain your free agent core to pair with the main core of Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa?

Sure, Tony Kemp, Tyler White, Jake Marisnick and Max Stassi are all solid. But can they give you what the free agents listed above have done and continue to do? Frankly, losing Game 2 in St. Petersburg to Charlie Morton is probably clue #1 to this mystery of team chemistry.

Home Sweet Home

The good news is that the Houston Astros are home for a little while. Perhaps, having the home town crowd get behind you in a big way will be the thing that sparks this team chemistry. Maybe, just maybe, seeing the Crawford Boxes will remind the offense just how potent their bats can really be.

Next. Astros: Five moves we wish were April Fool's jokes. dark

Only time will tell on this question. The one thing that is for sure is that the spacemen need to start winning again like we know they can. Here’s the perfect chance to get that going and spark the much-needed team chemistry in the process!