As in the HEB commercial where Carlos Correa is “singing” about their Creamy Sensations (an ad that Astro fans, unfortunately, saw about a thousand times this season), the Astros were oh so close to a World Championship in a league that spans two countries. But now reality hits as the roster makeup of this offseason turns into payroll decisions for the team.
What We Know
- The Astros are on the hook no matter what on the following players with contracts (if not traded) – Justin Verlander ($33 MM), Jose Altuve ($29 MM), Zack Greinke ($24.6 MM), Michael Brantley ($16 MM), Josh Reddick ($13 MM), Alex Bregman ($12.6 MM), Ryan Pressly ($8.75 MM) and Yuli Gurriel ($8.4 MM)
- The following players are now Free Agents and may or may not be headed out the door – Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh (OK when two guys pay for ads to thank the fans for the wonderful time they’ve had, it is likely that time is over), Wade Miley, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Robinson Chirinos, and Martin Maldonado. The Astros will likely have an interest in many of these players, but so will other teams.
- The following players are arbitration eligible and the team will have to decide whether they tender all or some of them – George Springer (est. $21.4 MM), Carlos Correa (est. $7.4 MM) Aaron Sanchez (est. $5.6 MM), Aledmys Diaz (est. $2.4 MM), Brad Peacock (est. $4.6 MM), Roberto Osuna ($10.2 MM), Jake Marisnick (est. $3 MM), Lance McCullers (est. $4.1 MM), and Joe Biagini (est. $1.5 MM). This is more interesting this year than in other years. If the team does not tender then they become free agents. The team can also attempt to extend players to buy out their arbitration and possibly free agent years.
Writer’s note. The estimated arb numbers are from Spotrac and it is hard to wrap one’s mind around the fact that Springer might get approximately three times what Correa gets in arbitration. Springer has been great, but has missed time (not as much as Correa). That is eye-opening.
- Chris Devenski was under contract in 2019 and if the team takes up a team option on him – could have him for $2.8 MM in 2020.
- The other players around (Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Garrett Stubbs, Jack Mayfield, Myles Straw, Abraham Toro, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez, Bryan Abreu, Rogelio Armenteros and a cast of thousands) are controllable at the MLB league minimum – not announced yet, but approx. $565K/ year. You wonder if they will toss Alvarez a bone for his tremendous season – say $1 MM…..
There are a number of ways the team can move on from here relative to salary, But obviously, the key here is what is the budget for next season and does Jim Crane apply any of the playoff “bonus” revenue to the payroll …..
- Ignore the “luxury tax”. It is not necessarily going to cost them that much as first time offenders.
- Don’t tender offers to all of the players eligible for arbitration. This goes from the more likely to be bypassed like Biagini, through the possible like Sanchez to the out of the box like Osuna. Do the Astros think that Osuna at $10+ MM, who has been solid overall, but shaky in key spots is worth the cost in both budget and in bad press….. They might not invoke the team option on Devenski, also.
- Deciding to not pursue most of the free agents. Though anyone could use a Cole, it keeps feeling like there have been at least outline talks about an extension during the last off-season and the two sides are far apart on length of contract as much as annual salary. They would likely go back after Chirinos, kick the tires on Maldonado, see if they can come to some kind of agreement with Harris and Smith (if he would come down in asking price). If they know something about Miley (maybe pitching hurt) they could well try to bring him back (hard to figure what his value is for 5 months of excellence and then a crash and burn). But it would not surprise me if only Chirinos returns from that bunch.
- Trading contracts. With Alvarez up and Tucker playing decently – Reddick’s contract sticks out as some low hanging fruit to see if another club will take on. You would not get much for him unless you want to swallow contract, which is the opposite of what this exercise is talking about. Even an oft-injured Correa seems like a bargain for what they are likely going to be asked to pony up for him. You would only trade him for some low cost – high-performance pitching help. Verlander and Altuve have full no-trade contracts and Greinke has a partial no-trade – so even if they were considering it…..not likely to occur. Bregman is untouchable. Hard to picture any scenario that would lead to them trading Brantley, Pressly or Gurriel.
The gut feeling is that the Astros will likely attempt to send Reddick elsewhere, and might well separate from Devenski, Biagini and Sanchez, but unless someone blows them away they are not likely to pull any other rabbits out of their hats, like a Correa trade. They will most likely try to pull pitching help from the minors and off the heap of pitchers out there, who are underperforming but have a high spin rate. The end result may be a team that is not as good as in 2019.