The Astros made it to the top! King of the hill! Top of the heap! Cream of the crop!
Now, to figure out how to stay there! That will be the big question for Jeff Luhnow over the next few off-seasons. You have to go back nearly two decades to find a team that won back-to-back World Series. The Giants, however, won three out of five just a few years back.
When a team has at least three $200 million players and a couple of $150+ million pitchers, things get sticky. Or, as we’ve discussed on this blog for several seasons now, you create a massive bottleneck.
Yes, Luhnow doesn’t have to make a single change to this team to be competitive for a repeat in 2018. Yes, Justin Verlander probably put the organization over the top for another year or so. And, yes, Luhnow could just ride the wave of success for another 2-3 seasons.
Not to mention Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr., Brad Peacock and others down the road. And, therein lies the challenge. Keep everyone happy. Or pick and choose between who to make happy and who to send packing.
Make no mistake friends. Luhnow will make tough decisions over the rest of this decade that will make you cringe and cause you to threaten to boycott games or throw things at your TV.
How many $20 million players can Houston support? Already, Keuchel, Springer and Altuve are at the top of their game and will soon command $20 million+ per season. Their trade value will likely never be higher. Houston could bring in a Herschel Walker-like haul now that would include numerous top prospects, international $$, compensation picks and more.
The questions are simple though: Do you pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade? If so, when? And who goes first? Here’s a recap of some current contract situations.
- Gone: Carlos Beltran, Luke Gregerson, Cameron Maybin, Francisco Liriano, Tyler Clippard.
- Non-tender candidates: Mike Fiers.
- Extension candidates: Keuchel, Altuve.
- Problem contracts: Tony Sipp, Ken Giles.
- Possible trade candidates: Josh Reddick, Collin McHugh, Giles, Sipp.
Yes, there are several players the Astros could non-tender. Giles isn’t likely, unless the Astros want to go in an entirely different direction. Fiers, who will command top dollar, probably won’t return. Would Houston dare non-tender Evan Gattis as a financial resource?
The Astros finished the World Series season with a nearly $125 million payroll If the 2018 season started today, Houston would begin with an approximate $140 million payroll, including projected arbitration salaries listed for players below with an *. Something — or someone — will have to give as the payroll often increases during the course of a season.
Here’s a look at the payroll projections, with some questions to follow.
|ASTROS 2018 PAYROLL|
|Justin Verlander||$28||FA 2021|
|Brian McCann||$17.0||5 yr/$85M (2014-18)+19 c opt|
|Josh Reddick||$13.0||4 yr/$52M (2017-20)|
|* Dallas Keuchel||$12.6||FA 2018|
|Yuli Gurriel||$12.4||5 yr/$47.5M (2016-20)|
|* George Springer||$8.9||FA 2021|
|Charlie Morton||$7.0||2 yr/$14M (2017-18)|
|* Evan Gattis||$6.6||FA 2019|
|Tony Sipp||$6.0||3 yr/$18M (2016-18)|
|* Mike Fiers||$5.7||FA 2020|
|Marwin Gonzalez||$5.1||FA 2019|
|* Ken Giles||$5.0||FA 2021|
|* Collin McHugh||$4.8||FA 2020|
|* Brad Peacock||$2.9||FA 2021|
|Will Harris||$2.8||FA 2020|
|* Lance McCullers Jr.||$2.6||FA 2021|
|* Jake Marisnick||$2.0||FA 2021|
|Brian McCann||-$5.5||Yankees payment|
|Justin Verlander||-$10.0||Tigers payment|
|Chris Devenski||FA 2021|
|Bregman, Alex||FA 2023*|
|Correa, Carlos||FA 2022|
Here are some questions for you:
- If the Astros said they were going to trade one big player this winter, which one makes the most sense: Springer, Keuchel, Altuve, Correa, Bregman?
- Who would you non-tender (here are some who are eligible that might make sense: Fiers, Giles, Gattis, McHugh, Marisnick)?
- If Luhnow called you today, what recommendations would you make for the roster?
- There are several players on the 2017 roster who could ultimately end up as Hall of Famers. Of course, it’s early for some, but which player excites you the most in that regard?