Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros

Expect a quiet offseason for the Astros, who conducted their fire sale in July.  Intrigue may come from possible ownership, GM, and league changes.

Guaranteed Contracts

  • Carlos Lee, LF/1B: $18.5MM through 2012, ten-and-five rights
  • Wandy Rodriguez, SP: $25.5MM through 2013, 2014 club option becomes player option upon trade
  • Brett Myers, SP: $14MM through 2012 unless '13 option vests
  • Brandon Lyon, RP: $5.5MM through 2012 

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

As the worst team in baseball, the 2012 Astros seem lacking just about everywhere. Things may get worse before they get better.  Second baseman Jose Altuve, starting pitchers Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles, and closer Mark Melancon are bright spots who should be around for a while.  Versatile 27-year-old Matt Downs had a nice second half in 2011.  However, there may not be many reasons to watch this team in 2012.

The Astros could have over $20MM to work with for the 2012 season if they hold payroll steady, as our arbitration eligibles post shows.  There's no need to spend the entire surplus on free agents for a team going nowhere.  I'd tinker with the bullpen by bringing in a few upside relievers on one-year deals with an eye on flipping them midseason.  Failing that, the 'Stros could at least hope to snag a supplemental pick or two after the season.

Every team needs veterans, but the four the Astros have under contract are somewhat expensive.  Rodriguez may be the only one with trade value, but with a potential $36MM owed over 2012-14, the Astros wouldn't get elite prospects in return.  There has to be a middle ground between simply dumping the contract, which the Astros decided against when the Rockies claimed him in August, and making outlandish player demands.  If Wandy is dealt, the Astros could reinvest in a more affordable veteran starter.

Jim Crane hasn't yet been approved as the next owner of the Astros and his group will have the option to opt out of purchasing the team from Drayton McLane on November 30th.  If MLB resolves its questions about past charges against two of Crane's companies, the remaining hurdle would be convincing the new owner to join the AL West.  The Angels, A's, Mariners, and Rangers would welcome the Astros, who appear several years away from contention.  Should Crane decide GM Ed Wade is not the man to continue rebuilding efforts, the goal becomes finding a patient executive with great scouting acumen.  For the Astros' sake, hopefully hard slotting is not part of the next collective bargaining agreement.


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28 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros"


3 years 10 months ago

You know this is a hilarious article with an even better headline: Offseason Outlook: Houston Astros. What Outlook is what I say! Anyway, as long as Ed Wade is GM of the Astros this article could have been stated in one word: Bleak!  So instead of 465 words, word document told me so, it could have been more clearly stated as one! So let me recap: Bleak!

John
3 years 10 months ago

Cool story bro.

MadmanTX
3 years 9 months ago

Bleak implies hope…”hopeless” would be a better description.

Thomas W
3 years 10 months ago

The Rockies supposedly offered Chris Friedrich and assuming 100% of Wandy’s contract, Wade countered with insisting on Pomeranz so they Astros will get exactly what they deserve.

SunsetStripper
3 years 10 months ago

Agree.  Wandy and his contract should have just been dumped on Colorado.  The Astros should have thanked Colorado for taking that 36 million off of their books, not insult them by asking for untouchable prospects.

Thomas W
3 years 10 months ago

It’s not like a Major Market team like Houston needs to be crying poverty(Houston is the 6th biggest metro area in the US, Denver is 21st with 40% of the Pop) but that 36 million being put into the Draft or Latin development would go a long way towards helping Houston get back to relevance.

East Coast Bias
3 years 10 months ago

Hey hey hey, easy on the off season stuff… some of us still have baseball teams to root for!

3 years 10 months ago

Certain national columnists have shaped the Wandy discussion into unbalanced nonsense, and with all due respect to Mr. Dierkes, this only continues that same theme.

Wandy is among the most reliable and durable lefthanded starters in the game. Is he worth $12 mil for the next 3 years? Probably not.

But on the other hand, it was reported that the NYY were prepared to trade viable prospects if the Astros picked up that last year’s salary, ie, $13 mil. Notably, few choose to spend time in their columns talking about whether Wandy is worth the ~$8 mil/yr that that would have translated to.

That’s what I mean by unbalanced nonsense.

And it’s not like Wandy’s been fragile. And it’s not like lefties like Wandy hit a wall at age 33.

What “it’s like,” rather, is that there are teams that saw the Pence/Bourn deals as fire sale material, and dug in their heels and thought they could get a top lefty pitcher at a bargain price.

So to the Thomas Wilsons of the world, I’m happy to report, indeed, so far Ed Wade is making sure that the Astros are getting what they deserve, and if they do not, they’re more than happy to keep his solid arm in the rotation.

One more observation that Mr. Dierkes leaves out, but then again, so does anyone else ever writing about the Stros… that is, for years, Drayton McLane kept the major league club somewhat competitive through free agency spending, in spite of the talent drain down on the farm.

Pump into the major league roster talent worth a sum of about $30-40 million and get the payroll back to its former state, and you could easily see this club regain footing quite rapidly.

Is that likely to happen? Not from Drayton. Nor from CraneCo. I get that. And I’m hoping to see the club get a second shot on the market so that we can find someone who isn’t quite so dependent on loans to purchase the team. But nonetheless, the point is well-taken that the payroll for a market approximately the size of Philadelphia (!) is currently poised to be set for one of the lowest in all of baseball… change that, and you can start to make some in-roads back to respectability.

3 years 10 months ago

OK, what free agents would you sign this offseason and for how much?

Wandy stuff is not accurate, as I have been in his corner more than most and have written quite a bit to that effect.

3 years 10 months ago

I’m not disputing anything you’ve previously written, and now that you mention it, I do think I recall you doing just that.

The words written today, though, left me with the sense that you concurred with the idea that the Astros were making outlandish player demands.

From what I read at the deadline, the Yankees were willing to trade high-grade prospects, ie make a “baseball trade,” if… depending on who was doing the reporting… the Astros were willing to eat as little as $13 mil, or as much as $17 mil (Heyman). At the other end of the spectrum, Ed Wade was reportedly only conceding, again depending on who was doing the reporting, $2 mil, or “a few” million.

The reality is more likely that those were negotiating positions. Wade wasn’t going to get quality prospects for that little give-back, and Cashman wasn’t going to get the quality starter for that little cumulative salary.

The way the story has read, Wade has routinely been painted the fool for sticking to his guns. And that’s fine. I’ve acknowledged he couldn’t expect the receiving team to pay Wandy $12 mil plus give up quality prospects.

My problem has been that I recall NO popular press national columnist reviewing the other side of the table, and suggesting that Cashman was ridiculous to think he could get Wandy for $7 mil/yr… so my problem is actually less with your writing here, and more with the tone of it, since it seemed to embrace that mentality.

========

The question about free agents seems to assume that I’m endorsing an immediate spending spree. If I left you and others with the impression that that’s what I advocate, I didn’t state what I meant very well.

What I intended is to suggest that once the Astros identify a few core players that they’re satisfied are going to stick for the long term, you can instantly boost the team out of the bottom of the division if you sign, say, 3 players whose value is in the $12 mil range.

So, this time next year, I would lean toward the thinking that it’s plausible that that would be the case… and don’t misread that… *not* that the current or new owner is actually going to take my advice and spend the money… but just that potentially the team could be in the position where 4-6 young players have established themselves as everyday guys who seem to have formed a core.

Hope this helps.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

I dont think 4 out of the last 5 years being well under .500 qualifies as “Keeping the Astros somewhat competitive”, no one has ever viewed them as a force or even relevant since 2006.

3 years 10 months ago

Pete, I take it you’re not an Astros fan. Let me help you out b/c you seem like a nice guy in spite of that fact. The last time Drayton was spending money in earnest on this payroll, 2008, the team was competing for the wild card until your friend Bud sent them to Milwaukee for what would have been a home game series with Cubs except for a hurricane. Drayton began drawing back, ostensibly knowing he was getting ready to sell the team.

coldgoldenfalstaff
3 years 9 months ago

I’m more interested in the club getting a second shot on the market to get a buyer who won’t sell out the fans on the AL move blackmail so his shady business deals can get swept under the carpet when it comes time for approval.

Thomas W
3 years 10 months ago

You are really happy with what Wade got in the Oswalt, Bourn, and Pence trades? Those three were younger, and after all the money the Astros picked up more affordable.

Wandy will be due 36 million for his 33-36 seasons Oswalt was due 47 for his 32-35 seasons with the 11 million the Astros picked up that works out to 36 million for an inferior pitcher with less track record, who is one year older and his third year is a player option. If you feel the honor of paying 36YO Wandy 13 million dollars is worth a top 15 prospect then so be it, have fun watching another 100 loss season.

3 years 10 months ago

I made clear that I don’t consider Wandy a $12 mil/yr pitcher.

What’s lacking is the balance in the conversation that acknowledges that he’s also not a $7-8 mil/yr pitcher.

Thomas W
3 years 10 months ago

Like I said the Rockies offered to take the whole contract plus offered Friedrich who was more recently considered a top prospect than Brett Wallace was, my statement that saying that Wandy entering his age 33 season being guaranteed 36 million is worth Drew Pomeranz a top 20 prospect in BA’s midseason list is what I objected to.

3 years 10 months ago

If that’s true… and I never read that it was, but perhaps you’re right… I can only conjecture that the problem wasn’t that they didn’t like the deal in theory, but didn’t like the specific prospect so much.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

If Randy Wolf is a $10M a year pitcher, I think its fair to call Wandy a $12M one.

Thomas W
3 years 10 months ago

I can’t imagine anyone would pay Randy Wolf 10 Million a year on the open market this year

daveineg
3 years 10 months ago

If Lee waived his 10 and 5 rights, and the Astros ate half his 12 salary, I think he could be moved.  He showed he can play 1B reasonably well and teams will be in the market for that position.

rovert22044
3 years 9 months ago

If the Astros make the move to the AL West, I think they should keep Lee and DH him. If they stay in the NL, I think they should as least try and get rid of him.

Pete
3 years 10 months ago

A note: Wandy has historically not fared well in AL parks…he looks like another guy who is “good for the NL” but a big red flag for AL teams. Same goes for Myers.

3 years 10 months ago

really pete? id imagine the lonely Red Socks wish they would had anted up for his services right about now

3 years 10 months ago

Extremely small sample size by comparison.

3 years 10 months ago

Tim Dierkes, too, you might double-check that Carlos Lee 10-5 rights thing… one of our more astute and reliable contributors to the Astros board I frequent said that there reportedly was a provision in Carlos’ contract that stipulated that when he originally signed, in return for his getting a limited no-trade clause, he would give up his 10-5 rights if/when that point occurred.

stroh
3 years 10 months ago

Regarding the “bright spots” you noted, you left off the brightest.   Outfielder J.D. Martinez, who had 6 HRs and 35 RBIs in about 200 at bats in his rookie season.   This after hitting well over .300 in AA ball.

3 years 8 months ago

astros will not have a 100 lose season this year,maybe 90 but not 100.lets just see how the offseason plays out and go from there. i tend to make better decisions when i have the whole puzzle in front of me.

3 years 8 months ago

astros will not have a 100 lose season this year,maybe 90 but not 100.lets just see how the offseason plays out and go from there. i tend to make better decisions when i have the whole puzzle in front of me.