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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