Last week, Astros owner Jim Crane indicated that the club's payroll could go up in 2014 but declined to say how much it could increase. This week, Crane said that the payroll could climb as high as $50-60MM, regardless of how their lawsuit with Houston Regional Sports Network over their TV contract plays out, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
In fact, if there is a favorable resolution to the dispute, Crane says that the team could go "a little bit deeper." While that could mean that the Astros will have $30MM to spend on a handful of players, no one should expect Houston to go after the top tier guys on the open market.
“We’re not going to make a move unless it fits into the plan, and we’re not going to rush the plan. [General Manager Jeff Luhnow has] a very systematic formula and we do have some good players coming up. You add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we’ve got. We’re deep in pitching," Crane said.
The Astros will likely be in the market for late-inning relief help, an outfielder with a big bat, and a veteran starting pitcher in place of free agent Erik Bedard. While a $60MM payroll would still place them among the lowest in the league, it would be a marked improvement over their 2013 Opening Day figure of $26.1MM. Last week, I looked at the Astros' needs and potential offseason targets as a part of MLBTR's Offseason Outlook series.