John McClain: The Astros have a lot to do in the off-season, and they started by making offers to Baker, Click

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MARIA LYSAKER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13613046n) Houston Astros Dusty Baker Jr. and Members of MLB’s Houston Astros during the World Series Parade to celebrate the team’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the baseball World Series in Houston, Texas, USA, 07 November 2022. The Astros defeated the Phillies 4 games to 2 in the best-of-seven series to win Major League Baseball’s annual championship. World Series Champions parade, Houston, USA – 07 Nov 2022

John McClain: The Astros have a lot to do in the off-season, and they started by making offers to Baker, Click

The Astros’ celebration continued on Monday when more than 2 million fans descended on downtown Houston for the team’s second World Series parade.

The Astros’ 11-2 playoff run, including the conquest of the Phillies in six games, created the kind of dynasty that could keep them on top of the baseball world for the next few years.

As owner Jim Crane, manager Dusty Baker and their players took turns hoisting the 2022 World Series Trophy, a lot of loyal fans who supported the team through the agony of 100-loss seasons and the ecstasy of four World Series appearances in six years were already looking ahead to next season.

This Astros team that finished 106-56 during the season before going 7-0 against the Mariners in the ALDS and the Yankees in the ALCS is built to last.

Crane, whose team will be trying to reach a seventh consecutive ALCS and a fifth World Series during that period, must answer several intriguing questions about his world-champion team.

On Monday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Crane plans to offer Baker and general manager James Click contract extensions. Baker told reporters Mark Berman of KRIV and Brian McTaggart of he’ll return next season even though the deal hasn’t been finalized. Both deserve to return because they’ve done outstanding jobs for three years after taking over a scandal-ridden team.

Next up for Crane is what to do about pitcher Justin Verlander. Will he re-sign after he opts out of a contract that would pay him $25 million next year? After returning from a two-year absence because of Tommy John surgery, he was 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA. He’s expected to win the AL Cy Young Award and be voted Comeback Player of the Year.

Will first baseman Yuli Gurriel be re-signed? He made $8 million, turns 39 in June, was poor at the plate during the season with only eight home runs, 53 RBIs, and a .243 batting average but experienced a resurgence in the playoffs with a team-leading .347 average.

Will set-up man Rafael Montero, who had the best season of his career, be re-signed? He appeared in 71 games and finished with a 2.37 ERA and 14 saves. In 10 playoff games, he compiled a 1.93 ERA.

Will there be room on the 2023 roster for players like Michael Brantley, Aledmys Diaz and Christian Vazquez? Their contracts expire. Brantley, who turns 36 next season, played in only 64 games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. He made $16 million.

Verlander, 40, should be next up on Crane’s to-do list. Verlander’s return was extraordinary. He resumed his place as the Astros’ ace, making him and Framber Valdez an awesome one-two punch with a combined record of 35-10.

Crane has yet to give a contract that’s made baseball people believe the player came out on top. He allowed pitcher Gerrit Cole, centerfielder George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa to depart as free agents, and the Astros still won a second World Series.

It’s difficult to see Crane offering Verlander a three-year contract. Maybe one year with an option, possibly two without an option. But Crane is a shrewd baseball guy who’s a tough businessman and will make what he believes is a fair and equitable offer. He’s not driven by public opinion.

If Verlander is the next superstar who’ll turn down Crane to sign with another team, the Astros will still have six legitimate starting pitchers when they report for spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. in late February.

No team can match the Astros’ six-pack of Valdez, Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy and Hunter Brown. Brown, who was so impressive late in the season and in brief playoff appearances, could be the Astros’ next star pitcher.

The Astros have baseball’s best pitching staff. They surrendered three runs over the last three games against the Phillies to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the World Series, including a combined no-hitter in Game 4.

General managers around both leagues are envious of their homegrown talent – the way they find pitchers and develop them. Pitching coaches Josh Miller and Bill Murphy deserve a lot of praise for exceptional coaching in a difficult situation – replacing the legendary Brent Strom, their longtime pitching coach.

The Astros showed they have the best and deepest bullpen, too. The relief pitchers combined for a 0.83 playoff ERA. Montero, Ryan Pressly, Hector Neris, and Bryan Abreu combined for 37 innings in the playoffs. They allowed 17 hits, 13 walks, and three runs while striking out 51.

Next season, the bullpen could add Enoli Paredes, who’s appeared in 37 games with the Astros over three seasons but only three in 2022. At Sugar Land this season, Paredes appeared in 50 games. He pitched 54.2 innings, allowed 34 hits, and issued 31 walks. He struck out 81 and finished with a 5-4 record and a 2.63 ERA.

Three tough decisions will have to be made in the field. If Gurriel isn’t re-signed, the Astros will have to find a new first baseman for the first time since 2016, the year before he arrived, to play a substantial role in the six-year playoff run. He’s a popular player in the clubhouse who contributes to a culture that’s helped create the dynasty.

The Astros have to figure out if Chas McCormick showed enough in the playoffs, including his magnificent catch to save a victory in Philadelphia, to play centerfield on a full-time basis.

And last but not least, the Astros won the World Series with two catchers. Martin Maldonado, 36, is a strong team leader who does an excellent job with the pitching staff but batted only .186 during the season and .207 in the playoffs. When they acquired Vazquez from Boston at the trade deadline, he was batting cleanup and hitting about .285, but his hitting took a severe downtown with the Astros.

Whether it’s Vazquez being re-signed or Korey Lee being elevated in a rotation system with Maldonado, something has to be done at catcher.

Once financial decisions are made with his free agents, Crane could still have room to operate because the Astros won’t be close to the 2023 luxury tax.

With Baker returning, the Astros should be favored to repeat as champions, something rare in baseball these days, because they should – once again — have terrific starting pitching, a dynamic bullpen, stingy defense, and impressive hitting built around Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker.

It’s easy to envision the Astros’ dynasty producing a fifth World Series in seven years and a third championship – no matter how much baseball fans would hate it.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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