Carlos Beltran signed with the Astros for a year and $16 million. There is probably plenty to say about this! There’s stuff to say about Beltran so far managing to defy the nature of aging. There’s stuff to say about the Astros being almost overloaded with position players. There’s stuff to say about Beltran returning to Houston after the two separated so many years back. There’s a lot for different people to tackle, but I’m only one guy and I’m also one guy in a hurry, so, here, numbers and plots. The Astros are good!

I mean, the Astros were already good. They were good before they signed Beltran. They were good before they got Brian McCann and Josh Reddick. Now they’re only better. Focusing strictly on offense, I’m going to show you two images. First, here’s one reviewing 2016. This shows total team offensive runs above or below average, that just being a combination of batting value and baserunning value. This is only for non-pitchers so as to try to balance out the leagues.

2016offense

I highlighted the Astros, who were right around the middle. Specifically, they ranked 16th. Now for the projected future! I know this is to some degree a silly exercise. It’s all based on one projection system, and no team’s offseason is complete, and projections don’t do a great job of accounting for platoons. But this does give you a good idea of where things stand today. Here’s a 2017 projection of the same information as above, based on Steamer projections and our updated depth charts.

2017offense

The 16th-place Astros now show up as the second-place Astros, and they’re first place in the American League. They’re 22 runs removed from the third-place Nationals, and they’re 27 runs removed from the Red Sox. Once again: the Red Sox will acquire at least one hitter. The Astros are probably finished, as their lineup goes. Anything else they do will probably be about pitching, and there are a lot of hitters left out there for other teams to pick up. But make no mistake — the Astros have built a lineup that’s going to be a daily challenge for any pitcher. There’s new flexibility and new depth, and the lineup might well lack an easy part. The winter meetings haven’t even begun and the Astros look like a terror.

As has been the case, it’s going to come down to how the rotation holds up. They’ll try to make an addition. It might not work, maybe not in the winter, but when a team isn’t sure how much it can trust its starters, the best you can do is to assemble lineup and bullpen depth. That’s what the Astros have done, and that’s why they look like possible, if not probable, AL favorites. It’s not a bad place for Beltran to seek that elusive World Series.