Astros on the mountain top, but payday is coming


Someday, we’ll look back on these times as the good ol’ days!

The Astros are flying high today, just as Sports Illustrated predicted several years ago. But, as is often the case in any field, it’s sometimes easy to get to the top of the mountain. The difficulty comes in staying there.

You can’t argue with the path that Jeff Luhnow has taken, especially given the recent results. Painful at times over the past decade, the mile markers have been obvious as the organization has rocketed to the best record in baseball in 2017. To be sure, in 2017, there are the Astros. And, then, there is the rest of the major leagues.

But there are still tough roads ahead for Houston, especially off the field.

When all is said and done in 2017, Houston will have an overall payroll around $120 million — and maybe a World Series trophy. But none of its stars — Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer et al — are earning exorbitant salaries. In fact, Altuve — thanks to that early contract — is making only $4.5 million this season and continues to be one of the shining stars in the league.

Luhnow is pacing himself well though, not clogging up the payroll arteries long-term. In fact, only two players — Yuli Gurriel and Josh Reddick — are signed for 2020, though Houston does hold options for Altuve ($6.5 million), Brian McCann ($15 million) and Will Harris ($5.5 million) for that season.

The big questions ahead for the Astros will be the Big 4 mentioned above. Keuchel will be due up first, heading into his final year of arbitration in 2018. And he’s having the perfect set-up season for it. If Houston is able to keep him, he will undoubtedly become the highest-paid player in the organization’s history.

Can you say $30 million per season?

By the time Altuve becomes a free agent, he’ll probably have a few more All Star games under his belt and maybe another batting title or two. He’ll be 30 when he gets what will probably be his one big contract.

Can you say $200 million, with at least $25 million per season?

Correa? Well, who knows. He won’t be a free agent until 2022, but is there any doubt he’ll make the big $ within the next 2-3 years? Correa has actually said he’d be open to an Altuve-like deal, though he said that would have to be sooner than later. That, however, could buy Luhnow some time.

Springer, though, may be the odd man out or the centerpiece of the future. A somewhat late bloomer compared to Correa, Springer won’t be a free agent until 2021…at age 31. The fleet center fielder is earning $3.9 million in his first year of arbitration and that will jump dramatically next season.

By 2022, if the Astros keep their core together, Luhnow could be handing out $20 million salaries to at least four players. Can you justify $100 million for four players, even if those four players are named Correa, Springer, Altuve and Keuchel?

Oh, and I didn’t even mention Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman, who will be free agents in 2022 and 2023.

Will the Astros have to pick and choose between their best three position players? Which one will Luhnow pull the trigger with first: Springer? Altuve? Correa?

And, if the Astros go out and buy another Keuchel-like starter, what then?

Yes, the bottleneck is coming and you can bet that Luhnow is spending a good amount of time crunching those numbers. He had the latitude this way to up the ante to $120 million, but how far will Jim Crane dig into the till?

So for the conversation starter, here are a few questions:

  • Which of the Big Four are still around in an Houston uniform in 2022?
  • Which of the Big Four will be traded after the Astros win the 2017 World Series?
  • Which of the Big Four will be most valuable, most necessary to the World Series run in 2019?
  • It’s way too early — and very unfair — to ask the question, but that’s what I get to do: How many of the Big Four are Hall of Fame bound?
  • Which of the Big Four would the Astros miss most in 2018?

 

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141 comments on “Astros on the mountain top, but payday is coming

  1. Keuchel being put on the DL will test this team and it’s resilience.
    I was actually afraid that this team would breeze through the season and coast along not having to overcome some trying times.
    Now they really have to pick it up.
    If and when they get to playoff time they will have to face real challenges, big-time pitchers, tension filled innings and the best teams every freaking night. Then they will face the next team, who will be even tougher.
    There is no way they can go into the playoffs with some of the pitchers they currently have pitching like they are now. Does anyone think that the Astros will have Sipp or Gregerson on that playodff roster if they can’t get anyone out.
    I read where Neshek didn’t like how he was used last year and he was happy to go somewhere else. But Neshek couldn’t get hitters out last year and he hurt the Astros. What makes anyone think the Astros will put up with the same thing this year, when it really matters?
    Peacock and Morton and Musgrove and Paulino and Hoyt are going to have to mature and start getting batters out consistently and Giles is going to have to close like a closer. These guys are have to reach back and blow the ball past batters and get them out.
    Bregman is going to have to make every throw and Gurriel is going to have to scoop every ball out of the dirt. Correa and Altuve need to turn every double play opportunity and make better throws to the bag. When a ground ball pitcher needs a ground ball to end an inning and he delivers it, the infield needs to turn it.
    Catchers need to block every pitch in the dirt, not just the easy ones.
    Aoki needs to swing the damn bat and not just poke and he needs to be better in LF.
    Marisnick needs to make contact and not go back into his old self.
    If you want tempered steel, the fire needs to be hot and now things are getting warmed up. If you want to win a world championship you had better be prepared to go to war.
    The Astros are going to be tested starting tonight. It’s time to see what they’ve got.
    All those glowing articles about how good they are don’t mean a damn thing if they fold up when things get tough.
    Let’s get our young guys out there and go back to kicking butt. LMJ, it’s time to grab this team, throw it over your shoulder and carry it. Right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LMJ looked like he wasn’t happy about the shift but I couldn’t hear the announcers so not sure what was happening. Did anybody else see or hear?

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    • I think they were lazy on a 3-0 count. They should have shifted back closer to a straight away alignment knowing Cain would be seeing pitches over the middle of the plate.

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  2. McCullers did EXACTLY what he needed to do, and as OP said….put this team on his back and carried these guys to an awesome win! AND pitching a no hitter all the way into the 7th inning!!! The kid is alright!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They so badly needed:
    – A win – check
    – A starting pitcher going deep – check
    – The pitchers as a whole being great – check
    – Clutch hitting late – check

    There will be all sorts of ups and downs this year – nice for this team to stop the bleeding before they needed a transfusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LMJ had the right stuff. Altuve is Gold! Devenski was cold blooded. He never changed expression and went right after the hitters with his fastball inside, followed by his change up down at the knees. Great reponse tonight from the astros and they did not seem to be hootin’ and hollerin’ tonight after the game. The Keuchel situation has them seemingly sober and more serious. This team is growing up. It may be a game, but it is much more than just a game.
    It would be nice if Peacock could pitch a little bit longer than his last outing and get this home stand started on a winning note. Suddenly, Peacock is our #2 starter. This is a big outing for him against an AL West rival.

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