Astros continue to set offseason pace with Carlos Beltran signing

In 2004, Carlos Beltran had a magical postseason in his first stint with the Astros, hitting .435 with eight homers and 14 RBI in 12 games. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has done the unthinkable this offseason: He's been so busy making moves that even Seattle's Jerry Dipoto and Atlanta's John Coppolella are having a hard time keeping pace.

Luhnow added another significant piece to Houston's batting order Saturday by reaching agreement on a one-year, $16 million deal with Carlos Beltran,

After signing Josh Reddick to a four-year, $52 million contract, acquiring Brian McCann in a trade with the New York Yankees, picking up Nori Aoki on a one-year agreement and adding depth to the rotation with a two-year deal for Charlie Morton, Luhnow appeared to have progressed beyond the sense-of-urgency stage.

But there was a distinct buzz throughout MLB this week that the Astros had more in store as the winter meetings approached.

"They're in on everybody," said a National League executive, who predicted that Houston would be among the most active teams in National Harbor, Maryland, starting Sunday.

As it turns out, Luhnow's biggest reason for acting quickly might have been elbowing out the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees in the pursuit of Beltran, one of his prime targets. The slugger had been regarded as an ideal fit to replace David Ortiz on a short-term basis as Boston's principal designated hitter.

Beltran, 39, will continue his late-career Hall of Fame push in the city where he made a big impression during a 90-game cameo in 2004. Beltran helped Houston reach the playoffs after coming over from Kansas City in a late June trade, then hit .435 with eight home runs in the postseason before leaving to sign a seven-year, $119 million deal as a free agent with the New York Mets.

The Astros regressed slightly from an 86-win wild-card team to an 84-win club last year thanks in part to a middle-of-the-road offense that ranked eighth in the AL in runs and ninth in OPS. Now, suddenly, manager A.J. Hinch can post lineup cards that are chock-full of depth and flexibility. Any batting order that includes hit machine Jose Altuve and rising stars George Springer and Carlos Correa has a chance to be formidable, not to mention a lot of fun to watch. Throw Beltran, McCann, Yulieski Gurriel, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis (with his team-leading 32 home runs) into the mix, and opposing staffs won't have a lot of breathers against Houston.

Luhnow could still blow the top off the Hot Stove by throwing Bregman and some of the team's young talent into a package for Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. But a move of that magnitude might require digging deeper into the organization's cache of prospects than he would prefer.

Nevertheless, executives throughout the game fully expect Luhnow to add a starter to the Dallas Keuchel-Collin McHugh-Lance McCullers Jr.-Morton-Joe Musgrave mix sometime over the next few weeks. Houston owner Jim Crane appears to be in full-scale win-now mode, and the front office will keep plugging away on upgrades.

The Astros have passed the point where they need to be in on "everybody." But they're still operating on enough fronts to make some more noise this winter.