Are the Houston Astros Nearing the End of Their Dynastic Run?

The Houston Astros have been one of baseball's top teams for nearly a decade. Can they keep it up as their stars get older and more expensive?

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 11: (L-R) Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros celebrates with Jeremy Pena #3 and Michael Brantley #23 after the victory against the Minnesota Twins in Game Four of the Division Series at Target Field on October 11, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. . (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

It wasn’t so long ago that the Houston Astros were the laughingstock of the league. Year in and year out, they limped to the finish line in an ultra-competitive NL Central.

After years and years of disappointment, the club moved over to the American League, joining the AL West. This move was necessary, balancing out the two leagues with 15 teams each.

Things did not start out perfectly once the Astros made the move to the AL. In fact, they finished last in year one and second-last in year two. It wasn’t until year three that things began to turn around.

The 2015 campaign was when things started to look promising for the Astros. Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young, Carlos Correa won Rookie of the Year, and the club finished with its best winning percentage in seven years.

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After a slight regression in 2016, the Astros went on to do nothing but win. A couple of World Series victories in 2017 and 2022 – along with two other World Series appearances in 2019 and 2021 – signified that this team had all the makings of a true dynasty.

A Solid Foundation

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 22: Yordan Alvarez #44 of the Houston Astros celebrates with Jose Altuve #27 after scoring on an unassisted double play by Kyle Schwarber #18 (not pictured) during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game Six of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 22, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

For years now, this team has been carried by some of the most recognizable names in all of baseball. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez make up an offensive core that has repeatedly made the Astros one of the most fearsome offensive teams in the game.

On the mound, Justin Verlander – back in Houston after a brief stint in Queens – has remained an elite pitcher despite the fact that he’s already over 40 years old.

He is paired with multiple aces-in-the-making in Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and, to a lesser extent, Hunter Brown and J.P. France.

The core has largely remained intact, and when some stars have left, others have stepped up to take their place. The team has continued to win year after year. However, multiple impending free agents and a fresh playoff disappointment may mean a major shakeup is on the way.

Moving Parts

Let’s start with Altuve, who has turned himself into a living legend. The 33-year-old isn’t exactly on the cusp of retirement, but he’s also not locked up to a long-term deal. In fact, he’s set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

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Back in September, FanSided’s Robert Murray and Adam Weinrib interviewed Altuve and asked if there had been any extension talks, and his answer was a firm “no.” Chandler Rome of The Athletic echoed this sentiment in a piece published in November. It feels unlikely that the Astros will ultimately let Altuve walk, but it’s surprising that nothing has come together yet.

Bregman, 29, is also set to hit free agency prior to the 2025 season. While Altuve feels like a solid bet to re-sign, Bregman does not. To that end, he has even found himself in trade rumors over the past month. GM Dana Brown has publicly stated that he does not expect to trade Bregman, but we’ve seen situations before where an executive shuts down trade speculation only to move the player immediately after.

Even if a trade doesn’t come together, that’s two of the Astros’ best players set to leave in free agency.

Tucker and Valdez are both going to become free agents after the 2025 season as well unless they sign new deals, which only further complicates things. Pair this with the fact that Justin Verlander can’t pitch until he’s 60, and you have some uncertainty moving forward.

HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 27: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros during a press conference ahead of Game One of the World Series between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park on October 27, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

No Help on the Farm

There’s little doubt that the Astros have a weak farm system. That’s not to say that there are no promising names, because there certainly are, but this is not a club that has significant prospect help coming anytime soon.

In a recent piece from Bleacher Report ranking each MLB team’s farm system, the Astros were dead last. No prospects were featured in “Tier 1,” reserved only for the kind of players that would make up a Top 100 list.

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At the 2023 trade deadline, Houston actually traded away their lone prospect in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100: Drew Gilbert.

Meanwhile, the Astros had two prospects featured on Just Baseball’s latest Top 100 prospect list – Luis Baez and Jacob Melton – but neither looks ready to contribute in the near future.

This team built a dynasty by drafting and developing talent. With Brown at the helm, it’s not impossible that they can do so again, but right now, the future is looking bleak.

Friction From Within

When the Astros were eliminated from the postseason in 2023, questions began to circulate regarding just how long they could keep up their winning ways. After all, nothing lasts forever, and it’s worth wondering if this team’s best days are in the rearview mirror.

Behind the scenes, there’s been a lot more drama than you’d expect from a team that’s made the World Series four times in the past seven years. For starters, it will be a long time before the Astros are able to shake the “trash can” scandal. Most players, coaches and executives from that era have moved on, but there’s no doubt that some wins remain tainted.

Then, there’s the fact that the team parted ways with James Click, the club’s former GM, just weeks after bringing home a World Series trophy in 2022. There have been conflicting reports as to why Click was let go, but the most popular theory is that he didn’t want to accept a one-year contract after leading the Astros to a championship, so ownership let him walk.

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

This is a lesson the Astros might be learning in the near future: All good things must come to an end. With multiple big names currently on a path to leave in free agency, the front office is going to have to make some major moves to ensure this dynasty keeps going strong.

To start with, an extension needs to be handed out to Bregman or Altuve – and hopefully both. Keeping them around will keep fans interested and keep a competitive offense on the field.

Next, there needs to be a major overhaul in how the club views its farm system. Brown has historically been a mastermind when it comes to assembling farm systems (he’s the man responsible for the Braves landing Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider), so he should be prepared to get aggressive in what is going to be his second year atop the Astros’ organization.

All hope is not lost (yet), but there are some much-needed alterations in store for the Astros. With all of their players only getting older, it’s just a matter of time before the window begins closing in Houston.