With solid core, Astros' future looks bright

Rasmus, Kazmir headline Houston's list of free agents

With solid core, Astros' future looks bright

KANSAS CITY -- The Astros feel good about their young nucleus that includes pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers, second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder George Springer, center fielder Carlos Gomez and shortstop Carlos Correa.

After taking the Royals to five games in the American League Division Series, ending with a 7-2 loss on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium, the Astros hit the offseason with some questions as well. The bullpen's struggles late in the season showed the need for a power arm at the back end, something which will be an offseason priority.

Shop for Astros postseason gear

Game Date Result
Gm 1 Oct. 8 HOU 5, KC 2
Gm 2 Oct. 9 KC 5, HOU 4
Gm 3 Oct. 11 HOU 4, KC 2
Gm 4 Oct. 12 KC 9, HOU 6
Gm 5 Oct. 14 KC 7, HOU 2

The Astros made a run at acquiring hard-throwing closers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel in July, and they will need to add firepower for the eighth and ninth innings.

"We had a lot of contributions from guys who weren't expected to do much this year and guys who were expected to do a lot really did a lot," Keuchel said. "Any combination of those two things, you have a chance to do something special. We were six outs away from the [AL] Championship Series, and [it] just wasn't meant to be. We'll look to build on this next year and hope to make some progress."

Left fielder Colby Rasmus, who set a career high for homers in the regular season and then hit four in the playoffs, will hit the free-agent market. He was a great fit in Houston and could command more than $10 million next season. Do the Astros want to try to bring Rasmus back or will they look for other options?

Left-hander Scott Kazmir, who came over in a July trade with the A's and had mixed results, is also a free agent. Relief pitcher Tony Sipp, who had an outstanding season, will also be on the market. The Astros must decide whether to tender slugger Chris Carter, who was benched in August before having a torrid September and a solid postseason run.

Expect Houston to be in the market for another veteran starting pitcher to join Keuchel, McHugh and McCullers in the rotation. Scott Feldman will be coming back from injury, and Mike Fiers will be in the rotation mix as well. The Astros will have to decide whether to pick up Chad Qualls' option for 2016.

"When you see we have Springer and Correa and obviously Dallas, those three guys are the future of the team," Altuve said. "For me, they're going to be 1-2-3 in the big leagues, best players in the league."

Astros owner Jim Crane has shown a willingness to expand payroll the past two years, and a surprise run to the postseason will likely only motivate management to try to get better through free agency.

"I see this team going in next year with this experience and all the young guys never had it, and now they believe more that they can be more of a special team," Gomez said. "I'm really happy to be on this team, and next year I can't wait to come back to Spring Training and make things happen again."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.