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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