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Offseason-In-Review: Houston Astros

The Astros were the big winners of the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, as the defending World Champs got even better this winter.

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (101-61)

Additions

RHP Gerrit Cole (acquired from Pirates), RHP Joe Smith (acquired in free agency), RHP Hector Rondon (acquired in free agency)

Subtractions

LHP Francisco Liriano (signed with Tigers), RHP Luke Gregerson (signed with Cardinals), OF Cameron Maybin (signed with Marlins), OF Carlos Beltran (retired), RHP Tyler Clippard (signed with Blue Jays), RHP Mike Fiers (signed with Tigers), OF Preston Tucker (DFA, traded to Braves), 3B Collin Moran (traded to Pirates), RHP Joe Musgrove (traded to Pirates)

As the defending World Champs, with a young roster and a reasonable payroll, the Astros did not have much work to do coming into this offseason. However, the Astros got even better, improving their already stellar rotation by adding the impactful arm of Gerrit Cole to join Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, not to mention the youngster Lance McCullers. With a rotation set to dominate and a potent offense, the Astros could be set up for another title run.

While the Astros may have lost a decent amount of names, the players they did part ways with were not major contributors to the club in 2017. In fact, many of the pitchers they did lose have since been replaced by perhaps more talented arms that will benefit the Astros in the bullpen and in the rotation.

The notable signing of right-hander Joe Smith to a two-year deal worth $15 million turned some heads this year, and that was likely in response to the club choosing to let Luke Gregerson go in free agency. Smith, 34, owns a 2.97 career ERA and he should be a weapon at the back end of the bullpen.

Additionally, the Astros signed former Cubs closer Hector Rondon to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. Rondon was not very effective last season after losing the closer role, but he owns a 3.22 career ERA and could benefit from a change of scenery.

Obviously, the big splash for the Astros this offseason was the trade that sent Cole to the defending champs. Cole was one of the largest names on the trade market this season, and Houston acquiring the 27-year-old gives them a scary rotation with three former All-Stars, and one potential All-Star.

Other than those three acquisitions, the Astros just recently re-signed AL MVP Jose Altuve to a huge five-year, $151 million extension, as it appears that he has become part of their long-term future. It is yet to be seen as to whether the Astros will be able to retain a number of their other young stars, but as the heart and soul of the Astros in 2017, bringing Altuve back for the next five-plus seasons appears to be a good move.

In 2018, the Astros should be a shoo-in favorite to win the AL West. While they may face some competition from the Angels or even a sleeper team, the Astros should own the division for the foreseeable future. Other teams such as the Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox will be gunning for them this year, but there’s no doubt that the Astros could repeat as World Series champions come late October.