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.    

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1 Comment on "2012 Contract Issues: Houston Astros"

4 years 4 months ago

Important to understand here is that the Astros have an agreement with Comcast and the Houston Rockets to launch a new cable sports channel in 2012. The Astros’ first season on the network will be 2013. That means the new ownership group is going to need to have some “name” players to promote the club as it tries to sell the new package to cable companies and fans.

So expect that there will be a “big splash” signing of some type this winter, assuming a sale is made, who can then be used to promote the new channel. If Albert Pujols is on the market, I could see a new ownership group grossly overpaying for him since it will not only be the “big splash” they want but would also weaken a key division rival in the process. I don’t think Pujols will be on the market, so don’t get too excited, but this is the sort of “big splash” I’m talking about – a guy even casual fans have heard about and would be interested in watching.

Therefore, while the Astros have been slowly rebuilding, new ownership won’t be that patient. Remember, Drayton McLane went out and signed Doug Drabek and Greg Swindell after buying the Astros. It didn’t work as planned but the point is that the signings were meant to revive interest in a flagging franchise. Fortunately, Astros fans were only beginning to discover how good Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio would be.