HOUSTON -- The Astros figure to be major players in the free-agent market this offseason, as they hunt for upgrades to their lineup at first base, catcher and outfield, as well as some pitching depth. Some of these improvements will come via trade, but Houston has money to spend and plenty of needs.
Free agents: C Jason Castro, OF Colby Rasmus, SP Doug Fister, 3B Luis Valbuena
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Arbitration-eligible: SP Dallas Keuchel, IF Marwin Gonzalez, SP Collin McHugh, RP Will Harris, SP Mike Fiers, RF George Springer, OF Jake Marisnick
Biggest potential FA Loss: The veteran Castro provides stability behind the plate, though he's coming off three subpar offensive seasons. The Astros may have to try to re-sign him, considering how thin the free-agent catching market is -- and they'll likely have to overpay. But at least they'll know what they're getting from the longest-tenured player on the team.
Potential FA targets: The Astros need a couple of left-handed bats, and those could come in the outfield, at catcher or first base. Look for the team to have solid interest in Dodgers outfielder Josh Reddick, who would fill a need and not break the bank. If Houston doesn't re-sign Castro, it could take a look at free agents like Matt Wieters or Wilson Ramos, but that's the top of the free-agent catching food chain. Similarly, free-agent first baseman Edwin Encarnacion will have no shortage of suitors, and the Astros are likely to take a look. He won't come cheaply, though. General manager Jeff Luhnow has a soft spot for his former players, and lefty-hitting outfielder Jon Jay is on the market as a cheaper option.
Wild card scenario: The Astros aren't going to be able to fill all their needs via free agency, so don't be surprised to see Luhnow make a few trades. One such target figures to be Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who would satisfy the need for a left-handed bat and has two years remaining on his contract. Assuming the Yankees eat some of the money, the Astros could become bigger players in the sweepstakes for some of the biggest names on the market like Encarnacion.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.