The Astros kick off our 2013 Arbitration Eligibles series. Matt Swartz's salary projections are below.
- First time: Bud Norris ($2.9MM), Wilton Lopez ($1.4MM), Wesley Wright ($900K)
- Second time: Jed Lowrie ($1.9MM), Edgar Gonzalez ($800K)
Norris, 27, authored an uneven season leading up to his first arbitration year. He posted a stellar 1.71 home ERA versus 6.94 on the road, for an overall 4.65 platform year ERA that won't lead to big arbitration bucks. Norris also comes up short on wins, another important stat for pitchers in arbitration. He's won only 28 of 97 career starts, but at least gets credit for the innings. Other first-time starters such as Doug Fister and Mike Leake will come into play for Norris' arbitration discussions. Beyond his 2013 salary, the broader question is whether Astros GM Jeff Luhnow will attempt to extent Norris at some point. Prior to this season, Luhnow told Milo Hamilton Norris was "a critical part of the plan moving forward."
The Astros acquired Lowrie as part of the Mark Melancon trade with Boston in December of last year, and the shortstop stayed true to his history of solid production in injury-shortened seasons. To be fair, the 28-year-old's injuries have mostly been freakish in nature, and Luhnow noted in a June MLB.com chat, "while I’d never say anyone is untradeable, he’s not likely to go anywhere for a while…or longer!" Though Lowrie has just 353 games under his belt, he has racked up big league service time, so he'll be eligible for free agency after 2014. This offseason would be a fine time for Luhnow to hammer out a team-friendly extension. Yunel Escobar's contract might be a good model, but with less guaranteed money.
The Astros also have a pair of first-time relievers on the docket in Lopez and Wright, and both should be affordable in lieu of big saves or holds totals. Lopez can ramp up his salary dramatically if he holds onto the team's closing job for all of 2013. Gonzalez is the team's lone non-tender candidate, as he's barely sniffed the Majors since '09 and the Astros waited until September to grant him a 40-man roster spot. Assuming he is cut loose, the Astros will have an estimated $7.1MM in 2013 salaries for four arbitration eligible players.
Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available exclusively at MLB Trade Rumors. To read more about his projection model, check out this series of posts.