The Houston Astros were six outs away from the American League Division Series last year, two innings from beating the Kansas City Royals in a best-of-five series. As it turned out, it wasn't meant to be and a disastrous eighth inning all but ended the Astros season. The Royals took the momentum back to Kauffman Stadium and disposed of the Astros and eventually won the World Series.
2015 was still an incredible success for the Astros, though, as it was the first year that the Jeff Luhnow rebuilding process yielded some serious, tangible on-field dividends.
However, this offseason is pivotal if the Astros have hopes of repeating - and possibly improving - in 2016. There are a few options out on the free agent and trade market that could certainly help the Astros, but one name sticks out above the rest.
Enter Chris Davis, the slugging Baltimore Orioles first baseman who has led Major League Baseball in home runs in two of the past three years. Since the start of the 2012 season, no player has hit more homers than the 159 that Davis has blasted.
There is a litany of reasons why Davis fits with the Astros, the most obvious of which is the fact that they need a first baseman. Chris Carter, last year's starter at first, finished the season one point under the Mendoza Line. As a whole, Houston first basemen sported a paltry .221/.319/.420 slash line in 2015.
Compare that to Davis' numbers last year - .262/.361/.562 to go along with 47 homers and 117 RBI - and it's clear that Davis would be a significant upgrade.
And in an era where power numbers continue to decline across the board, Davis is simply the best available player regarding an attribute - power hitting - that seems to get rarer every year.
"For a guy like this to hit the market, it's just an opportunity teams don't get: a 29-year-old player who has 40-plus home run power, and he's already hit 50 home runs," Davis' agent Scott Boras said, via Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. "You have to go back to Prince Fielder and [Albert] Pujols and Alex Rodriguez -- all these guys with 40-plus home run power. How often are they on the market? And when they are on the market, look at the impact they have."
Davis was second in all of baseball in 2015 in isolated power - a statistic that measures raw power by subtracting a player's batting average from his slugging percentage - behind only Bryce Harper, who won the National League MVP award.
Another thing to consider is that Davis signing with the Astros would be a homecoming of sorts. He is from Longview, which is about 200 miles north of Houston. He would also be going to a team that is short of left-handed hitters and a home stadium that has proven to be favorable to lefties.
Davis also would fit the Astros' offensive approach like a glove. The Astros are one of the few teams that will not blink an eye should they welcome Davis and his whopping strikeout total. Davis strikes out more than almost every other player in baseball, but the Astros also whiff more than any other team in the league besides the Chicago Cubs.
However, Davis also has patience to complement his high strikeout numbers. His 12.5% walk rate ranked 13th in baseball last year, ahead of perennially great hitters like Josh Donaldson, Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rizzo, to name a few.
There's also the fact that Davis is simply the best position player on the free agent market. Jason Heyward is becoming a popular pick for that label, but the power that Davis brings to the table simply can't be matched.
As phenomenal as it sounds, Davis is likely the best first baseman, third baseman, designated hitter and maybe corner outfielder on the market. He has logged somewhat significant time at all of those positions in the past three seasons, and the consensus among scouts is that he would not be a liability if the team that signed him elected to put him in the outfield.
And don't forget that Davis is fairly young and very durable. He will not turn 30 until spring training, and he played 160 games in both 2013 and 2015.
But, back to the Astros, this is a signing that would immediately give them arguably the best lineup in all of baseball.
With an already-outstanding top of the order consisting of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa, Davis could easily slide into the cleanup spot and thrive. The fact that he is left-handed would only add to the flexibility and productivity of this offense.
Now, there is the money factor that could be an obstacle. Tim Dierkes of Baseball Trade Rumors predicted a six-year, $144 million contract for Davis, and while that is quite a hefty sum, ownership has said on multiple occasions that they are willing to spend money and increase the payroll as the team becomes more and more competitive.
Well, Davis could make the Astros considerably more competitive just by himself.
The Astros have been repeatedly rumored to be in the market for a closer, and they could always stand to bolster their starting rotation, but adding Davis would considerably reduce the pressure to improve the pitching.
Humans with Davis' prodigious power don't grow on trees. Especially these days. His power is rare and game-changing, and the potential lineup with him has to have Houston executives and fans salivating.
A potent and lethal lineup certainly does not guarantee a deep run in the postseason, but it definitely increases a team's chances.
And after coming so close last year, signing the best power hitter available who is from Texas, plays decent defense at a position in which the Astros are lacking and hits from the side of the plate that the Astros are slim makes near-perfect sense.