As a friend of the blog, Old Pro, has been preaching for a while, January 15, 2021, is a potentially critical day in this year’s offseason. This is a date when two things will occur, one of which is mildly important and one of which is quite a bit more important….or could be.
The mildly important deadline on Friday is that it is the day when teams and players exchange arbitration figures for 2021.
Per MLB Trade Rumors, the guesstimates on the eventual salary for the three Astros eligible for arbitration is as follows:
- Carlos Correa. Between $8 MM and 10.2 MM – Note Carlos was in line for $8 MM in 2020 and due to the reduced schedule made approx. $3 MM
- Aledmys Diaz. Between $2.8 MM and 3.1 MM – Aledmys was due to make $2.6 MM in 2020 and due to the reduced schedule made approx. $1 MM
- Lance McCullers Jr. Between $4.7 MM and 7 MM – Lance was due to make $4.1 MM in 2020 and due to the reduced schedule made approx. $1.5 MM
Correa and McCullers had healthy seasons where they played the whole 60 game schedule. And of course, that is the rub. Can you tell how durable guys are who have missed a lot of time when they are asked to play a short schedule? In Diaz’s case, he continued his trend of missing time due to injury. Correa and McCullers played OK, but not at their best during the short 2020, but of course, Carlos went bat guano crazy in the playoffs.
A totally unscientific guess at their salaries for 2021 is Correa ($9.5 MM), Diaz ($2.8 MM) and McCullers ($6 MM). But as can be seen, this is not a really critical situation. Likely these salaries will fall within a few million of what the team has planned for in 2021. The most interesting thing facing the teams and players is how the heck these numbers will be figured out. The record for most players going to arbitration, e.g. not settling with the teams, is 35. It is a good bet that that number will be threatened this year just due to uncertainty and different points of view on what the short season meant.
The part of this day that is possibly more important is that it is the start of the “2020” International signing period. This was supposed to begin on July 2nd, but like most things this year, it was postponed. Now, if the Astros don’t sign anyone on the first day it does not mean it is all over since the signing period runs for 11 months until Dec. 15 of this year. There are six teams that have a pool of about $6.4 MM to spend, eight more that have about $5.9 MM and twelve that have about $5.3 MM including the Astros. There are four others that have reduced pools for various reasons including the Braves who had their pool cut because they were – gasp – cheating in their international signings.
The Astros have been long linked to Cuban OF Pedro Leon, but of course, they could go in another direction or bring in a number of different players from this pool. Here is one list of the top prospects out there.
Leon is shown as the 7th overall player on the list and the second outfielder. As a point of comparison, Leon was playing in the CNS (Cuban National Series) league, the same one Yuli Gurriel played in for many years. As 20-year-olds – here is how their numbers compared….
2019 – Leon (in 33 games) – 33 runs/ 15 HRs/ 36 RBIs/ .383 BA/ .467 OBP/ 1.256 OPS
2004-05 – Gurriel (in approx. 90 games) – 80 runs/ 23 HRs/ 86 RBIs/ .341 BA/ .398 OBP/ 1.006 OPS
So, both players put up excellent numbers and in a much smaller sample Leon’s results were a bit better than Gurriel’s.
What is interesting is that the #1 prospect on this list Yoelqui Cespedes (AKA Yoelkis), who has a better pedigree than Leon being the half brother of star Yoenis Cespedes has lesser numbers at the same age.
2018-2019 – Cespedes (21 games) – 4 runs/ 0 HRs/ 7 RBIs/ .315 BA/ .355 OBP/ . 744 OPS
It would be exciting if the Astros are able to reel in Leon and then put him out in their fairly empty outfield some time in 2021. That is the type of move that makes up for not having the 4 draft choices the Astros gave up a year ago.
So, tomorrow could be a very big day for the Astros or perhaps the precursor to some great international signing(s) in this off-season.