Speaking with Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and other reporters Tuesday, Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow painted a somewhat bleak picture in regards to the team’s payroll. In Luhnow’s estimation, the Astros are going to have to clear out money if they want to acquire a top-end starting pitcher this offseason. With that in mind, it looks more likely than ever that they’ll be saying goodbye to the No. 1 player on the market, right-hander Gerrit Cole, who teamed with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke to comprise an incredibly formidable trio in 2019.
Back in early October, before the Astros began what proved to be an American League-winning run through the playoffs, owner Jim Crane indicated he’d like to avoid going past the $208MM luxury tax in 2020. However, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of FanGraphs and Roster Resource, their luxury-tax payroll for next season is already over $231MM. As a result, the Astros could be more likely to shave payroll than make any major additions this winter.
The Astros would cut some money by trading star shortstop Carlos Correa, who’s due to earn an estimated $7.4MM via arbitration next year. Dealing the 25-year-old sounds like crazy talk, especially when you’re a championship-level team like Houston, but it’s not off the table. The club has “entertained” the possibility, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription link). As of now, though, no deal appears imminent.
With the top free-agent shortstop, Didi Gregorius, now off the board, it stands to reason any shortstop-needy club would (or has) called the Astros in regards to Correa. In trading Correa, though, the Astros would be selling low after an injury-limited year and leaving themselves with questions at short (of course, they did do just fine without him for a large portion of 2019). For now, Correa’s one of several key Astros who’s due to reach free agency over the next couple years, which could hasten either a trade or an extension. Correa, Verlander and Greinke are under control through 2021, while first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley are slated to hit the open market after next season.