If Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow wanted a clean slate, the Astros are almost there. One by one, Houston has dispensed with players of consequence.
Is it about the money? Or is Luhnow simply taking advantage of all the organization’s assets to improve the team’s foundation and position?
At this point, the Astros are creating a new model. If Luhnow succeeds, 10-20 years from now, rebuilding teams will no longer refer to Tampa Bay and Oakland as the blueprint. If the Astros can return to respectability this decade, how many more teams will divest themselves of every bit of talent to get to the bottom?
Is it about the money? Or does Luhnow really have a plan that will prevail?
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Erik Bedard is the only Astro making over $1 million. Next up — and you’ll love this one — is Philip Humber’s $800,000 salary. Every other player is within a few thousand of the league minimum.
Yes, you can argue it’s about the money. But it does give Luhnow a clean slate, talent wise, dollar wise and every other “wise”.
Talk about maneuvering room. Jason Castro is due his first trip through arbitration this winter. But others due arbitration (Bud Norris, Wesley Wright, Justin Maxwell) or options/buyouts (Jose Veras) are no longer Houston’s problem.
Is it about the money? The only thing guaranteed on the books for 2014 is Jose Altuve’s $1.25 million. Nothing else is guaranteed. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.
Yes, there will be some low-risk, high-reward hopefuls. They won’t be named Humber, Pena or Ankiel, but they’ll get their $750,000 or perhaps $1 million “tryouts”. It’s inevitable, but it cannot be the only investment in 2014.
Along with the prospects like Cosart, Villar and Springer, the Astros need to find some veteran presence that will help the Astros take the next step. Playoffs? No, Jim, we’re not talking playoffs. But 2014 should — no, must — represent a huge improvement. Maybe even toy with .500, but nothing less than 75 wins.
A $50 million payroll should be in the equation. Spent smartly, the Astros could even get away with $42-$45 million. If you think about it, that’s only 2-3 well-placed veterans to go along with some of those low-risk Bedards et al.
If you’re thinking the Astros will go from a $21 million budget (that’s what it was at the start of the season) to $75-$85 million in one season, you’re drinking some really good stuff. Take another sip and pass it around.
But this winter will indeed be the biggest 2-3 months in Jeff Luhnow’s short tenure. How he navigates this offseason will likely dictate how quickly the Astros return to that so-called respectability.
Maybe it’s time to pull off one of those trades where the Astros send prospects to pick up a young, promising major leaguer who hasn’t quite yet had a breakthrough. It’s unreasonable to expect the Astros to chase Robinson Cano, Brian McCann or Matt Garza, but there will be those affordable, solid options.
But here’s the key: Don’t sign those players with an eye on July. Bring them in for the long haul. Bedard and Veras were solid investments. It’s easy in hindsight, but the Astros should have held onto Veras (but that’s another story).
Is it about the money? Of course, it is. But it’s also about positioning the organization for the future. And it’s time that Luhnow invest for today rather than tomorrow.
Yes, it’s about the money. About $45-$50 million in 2014.
Finish these sentences: