MMQB: Post road trip observations
Some random thoughts after an eight-day, four-city road trip. Mine, not the Astros.
Road trips aren’t everything they’re cracked up to be.
- The so-called glamour of the MLB player is not necessarily all glamour. I crisscrossed the country last week, from northern California to Albuquerque, then Greensboro and Charlotte, NC. Eight days, multiple cities, hotels, good food. Functioning in various time zones, long flights, early mornings, late nights all take their toll. Obviously, these athletes are in top condition (well, most of them), but performing at top-level, staying healthy and living in hotels for long periods of time is as big of a challenge as any part of their contract requires. After six intense months, it takes its toll, especially on younger players used to riding buses within a specific region.
Next year’s payroll.
- As we’ve discussed in recent entries, next year’s roster may be in for a shuffle due to the limited spots on the 40-man roster. The bigger issue will be improving the roster and lineup while separating the wheat from the chaff that is the Astros’ prospects, especially at Oklahoma City and Corpus Christi, and adding veteran help through free agents or trades. With 10 players arbitration eligible, payroll is guaranteed to increase. Somewhere between $65 million and $75 million should be a reasonable expectation. This year’s payroll: $50.5 million.
- More on the roster and payroll coming soon. What range do you think the team payroll should be next season? What do you think it will be?
The AAA conundrum.
- Don’t believe for a minute that the OKC-to-the-Dodgers minor league affiliate move caught the Astros by surprise. Simply because there has been no public acknowledgement by the Astros means only that there has been no public acknowledgement by the Astros. They knew the agreement was up for renewal and they also know they can make no public comments per the rules. What is public is the Astros’ desire to move a AAA team closer to Houston, so the OKC ownership also knew that. The PCL will be realigned next season, by the way, but don’t think the Astros aren’t closing in on their own deal for a new AAA affiliate. They aren’t scrambling because of last week’s “breaking news”.
- Options: Doesn’t mean it can’t change, but New Orleans is signed with the Marlins through 2016 and Round Rock is signed with the Rangers through 2018. Corpus Christi is likely not an option given the smaller size of Whataburger Field. Albuquerque is available. So is Tucson. The Rockies are said to be exploring other options besides Colorado Springs as well. Stay tuned, but it’s likely that any affiliation for 2015-16 will be gap filler if and until the Astros can advance their preference for a AAA affiliate near Houston.
Time for long-term deals?
- Call it a hunch, but don’t be surprised to hear the Astros have locked up a player or two soon. With the impending off-season and need to trim the 40-man roster, one of the first orders of business will be to determine the core of players you want in Houston next season. For example, if the Astros determine that Dexter Fowler doesn’t want to be in Houston long-term or they can’t get a deal done (unlikely), he’ll be outta here, perhaps sooner than later. Fowler, Chris Carter and Jason Castro would seem to fit into that category. Slightly below that class would be Matt Dominguez, Dallas Keuchel and Josh Fields, if only because they won’t be eligible for arbitration until after 2015.
- Obviously, George Springer is a possibility, but Marwin Gonzalez and Alex White are also bubble candidates for extensions as both will be eligible for arbitration this winter. Given his versatility and three-year contribution, Gonzalez would likely be worth more in arbitration than the Astros would be willing to pay.
And a few odds and ends.
- The Astros are now on pace for 68 wins.
- Houston leads the league in runs scored since the All Star break.
- Only Baltimore (161) and Toronto (143) have more HRs than Houston (141) this season.
- Keuchel has 5 CGs this season, the most for an Astros’ lefty since 1997 (Mike Hampton).
- Houston pitching has allowed 3 or fewer runs in 19 of 35 games since the All Star break.