Back a few hundred years ago, that old bard Billy Shakespeare started his play, Richard III with the Astro applicable words, “Now is the winter of our discontent….”. This has been a tough time for every fan of the team and obviously more so for those folks who still work (for the time being) for the Astros. But the off-season moves on and more importantly, critical deadlines come and go regardless of dark clouds hovering and true hearts suffering.
The next deadline to roll around is on December 2nd. As Bard Billy (with a small change here) also said, “To Tender or not to Tender…. that is the question…”. The Astros will have to decide on that date, which arbitration-eligible players they want to tender (continue with negotiations or arbitration) or those they want to non-tender (allow to become free agents).
Just like the last two off-seasons, the Astros have a boatload of players who are arb-eligible. Unlike the last two off-seasons, there are probably more of these players that have question marks about them against their expected salaries. Also, unlike the last two off-seasons, there are doubts about obtaining players by other means.
- Will players want to come as free agents to an organization that is waiting for the sword to fall? Do they want to be signed by someone or sign to play for someone, who may not be in charge in a month or so?
- Will other teams want to face the fall-out from their fans of making trades with the “cheaters”? A few years ago I might have laughed this off, but in the current over-sensitive world, you never know what people will organize against and how teams and their sponsors will react.
- And what is the budget line that Jim Crane will support, especially when he is unsure what punishments and fines may be brought from above? Will he have to eat some salaries of front office or dugout folks that he may be forced to pink slip?
- Will these uncertainties make the certainty of players still under club control through arbitration look more attractive? They can also replace players from within the organization, but that has not been their vehicle of first choice to date.
In the off-season following the 2017 World Series, the Astros only non-tendered pitcher Mike Fiers. With 20/20 hindsight that may end up being a baaaaaad decision. They then came to agreements with or went to arbitration with Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers Jr. and Jake Marisnick.
Last off-season they only non-tendered a player who never played an inning for the team, catcher Chris Herrmann, who they had just picked up off waivers. They then came to an agreement or went to arbitration with Gerrit Cole, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Lance McCullers Jr., Collin McHugh, Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock, Ryan Pressly, Carlos Correa, and Jake Marisnick.
So after settling with 9 out of 10 players and 10 out of 11 players – the Astros face a list of 9 players this off-season – George Springer, Carlos Correa, Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers, Aledmys Diaz, Jake Marisnick, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and Roberto Osuna.
So with expected arbitration numbers from Spotrac at our fingertips, let’s look at each of these players.
George Springer. 30 years old. Expected arb salary $21.4 MM
The Astros will tender Springer and then I think they will work hard to extend him, though being one season away from FA, he may have no interest. But he will be back.
Carlos Correa. 25. Expected $7.4 MM
If Carlos could play 140 games next season, he might be the biggest bargain in baseball. (I know it is a big “could”). They will tender him. They might dangle him in a trade, but it would have to be a “blow us away” trade centered around a good controllable pitcher or two.
Brad Peacock. Will be 32. Expected – $4.6 MM
He was down a bit last season (4.12 ERA), but his ERA went south big time in a single game right before he went on the IL for almost two months. They need his arm and his flexibility between the bullpen and rotation and there is a good chance he could start the season in the rotation as a place holder until someone like Forrest Whitley is ready. They will tender him.
Lance McCullers. 26. Expected $4.1 MM
Well if they tendered the young man for a season they knew he could not play, they will certainly tender him now, especially with the news that he is basically clear to throw all his pitches.
Aledmys Diaz. 29. Expected $2.4 MM
No, he did not flash a Marwin Gonzalez glove moving around the diamond, but at his low expected price and with the solid bat he showed (when he wasn’t hurt) they will definitely tender him.
Jake Marisnick. Will be 29. Expected – $3.0 MM
This is an extremely tough one to guess. Does going to a 26 man roster open up an extra spot to keep him or does it financially make the team more likely to go cheap at the end of the roster? They certainly could go young with Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez and Myles Straw completing the outfield with Springer and Michael Brantley. The guess here is that they will tender Jake, but they will look for a spot to move him for a prospect along the way.
Aaron Sanchez. 27. Expected $5.6 MM
This one is even tougher to call, because we are not privy to exactly how long they expect Sanchez to be out after his shoulder surgery. If they thought he might be back shortly after the season starts, spend a few weeks in extended spring training and show up sometime in May, they might tender him. If they think it will be longer, there is a good chance they won’t. The guess here is he will be non-tendered.
Joe Biagini. 29. Expected $1.5 MM
In a very small sample, 14.2 IP – Biagini was horrid for the Astros giving up 21 hits, 6 HRs, 9 walks and having his fat saved by guys like Will Harris to hold it to only a 7.36 ERA. There are only a couple reasons they would tender him. One – if he had an injury he was pitching through or two – they think Brent Strom could straighten him out. I mean $1.5 MM is tip money in the majors, but of course it is not my tip money. I think they will non-tender him.
Roberto Osuna. Will be 25. Expected $10.2 MM
This is the toughest call on here. Osuna has mostly been a good closer. He has not had a hint of trouble about him since coming back from his suspension with the Blue Jays for alleged domestic abuse. But with all the PR fallout from the cheating scandal is Osuna at $10.2 MM too expensive an anchor for this team to carry onward, especially after the Brandon Taubman meltdown? This is a 50/50 in my mind. This one may depend entirely on who is making the call on this one. The guess here is ……I’m waiting until my flipped coin comes down. Oh, darned – it landed on edge. OK – y’all make the call on this one.
So there you go. It will be one of many interesting steps that will occur this off-season. How do you see these falling out?