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Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros

Next up in the Offseason Outlook series, the Astros.  Their likely 2009 commitments:

C - J.R. Towles - $400K
C - Humberto Quintero - $405K+
1B - Lance Berkman - $14.5MM
2B - Kaz Matsui - $5MM
SS - Miguel Tejada - $13MM
3B - Ty Wigginton - $4.35MM+
IF - Geoff Blum - $1.25MM
IF - David Newhan - $575K+
LF - Carlos Lee - $18.5MM
CF - Michael Bourn - $400K
RF - Hunter Pence - $400K
OF - Darin Erstad - $1.75MM
OF - Reggie Abercrombie - $400K

SP - Roy Oswalt - $14MM
SP - Wandy Rodriguez - $451K+
SP - Brian Moehler - $2.3MM
SP - Brandon Backe - $800K+
SP - Alberto Arias - $400K

RP - Jose Valverde - $4.7MM+
RP - Geoff Geary - $1.125MM+
RP - Tim Byrdak - $400K+
RP - Wesley Wright - $400K
RP - Fernando Nieve - $400K
RP - Chris Sampson - $401K
RP -

That's roughly $86MM committed, plus arbitration raises to Wigginton, Rodriguez, Backe, Valverde, Geary, and others.  Those raises could put the team past $95MM.  The Astros began the season at $88.9MM.  Fortunately, GM Ed Wade has payroll flexibility this winter.

Wade will begin the offseason by attempting to re-sign Randy Wolf, Doug Brocail, and LaTroy Hawkins.  That alone could result in '09 salaries of $15MM+.  Then Wade might replace Quintero with a more established backup catcher, which could cost another million bucks.  So we're looking at something around $110MM to keep the current group intact.  It's hard to see the 'Stros plunking down an additional $10MM+ on another veteran starter.

It's possible to envision the pitching staff working out, but the offense is a question mark.  Several factors needed for improvement: second-year success for Towles, more Matsui, Lee and Wigginton, and a higher batting average from Pence.  Center field seems likely to remain an offensive void.


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