2012 Contract Issues: Houston Astros

The Astros are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.  Here's what the team faces after the 2011 season:

Eligible For Free Agency (2)

  • Clint Barmes' Astros career has just begun.  He'd like to stay beyond 2011, but the team's willingness to extend him will depend on his performance.
  • Jason Michaels is also eligible for free agency.

Contract Options (1)

  • Bill Hall: $4MM mutual option with a $250K buyout.  Hall has a standard mutual option, which is really just a way for the Astros to push some money onto next year's payroll.  He didn't do anything in April to suggest the team should extend him.

Arbitration Eligible (9)

Not all of these players will make it to the point of being tendered contracts.  Pence and Bourn are the significant cases, assuming they are not traded.  Pence had a big arbitration win in February and could make the jump to $10MM in 2012 and well beyond that in '13.  Bourn is controlled through '12 and is represented by Scott Boras; his salary next year could exceed $7MM.  Happ could top $3MM and Keppinger is already above $2MM.  I'll estimate $24MM or so to retain the key players. 

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Astros' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $47.25MM.  That could climb to $71MM if the main arbitration eligibles are retained, which would be about $6MM below this year's reduced payroll.  If Jim Crane buys the team, what path will he take?  The new ownership group could purge more of the remaining veterans and build the team from the ground up, using 2012 as a consolidation year (after which Carlos Lee and Brandon Lyon will be off the books).  Or, assuming players such as Pence, Bourn, Brett Myers, and Wandy Rodriguez are not traded in July, a new owner could throw around some free agent dollars and try to find a way to compete in '12.