The luxury tax “is a factor,” in what the Astros will do at the trade deadline, GM James Click told broadcaster Robert Ford on the team’s pregame radio show (hat tip to Chandler Rome of The Houston Chronicle). However, Click also noted that the Competitive Balance Tax “is not a hard cap,” which is something of a broad remark that could imply the Astros are willing to exceed the $210MM threshold if necessary, or it could just be a simple statement of fact. Houston is currently quite close to the $210MM threshold — Cot’s Baseball Contracts has the team’s estimated tax number just shy of $207MM, while Roster Resource has the Astros with even less breathing room at roughly $208.8MM.
The Astros exceeded the CBT threshold last year, though since they didn’t top the threshold by more than $20MM and it was their first time in excess, the club paid the minimal first-timer rate of a 20 percent tax on the overage (for a total bill of $3,263,800). For passing the threshold again, the Astros would be taxed at 30 percent of the overage, though that again wouldn’t represent a big payout assuming they stayed under the $230MM mark.
As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal has pointed out, however, if the Astros were tax-payors, their additional penalty would include lesser draft pick compensation if a qualifying-offer rejecting free agent (i.e. Carlos Correa or Justin Verlander) left for another team. It would also cost Houston higher draft picks off their own board as compensatory picks if they were to sign a QO-rejecting free agent of their own. The Astros may have to get creative in adding any sort of salary at the trade deadline if they are to stay under the tax threshold, since doing nothing would seem like a wasted opportunity for a club that has the look of playoff contender.
More from Houston…
- Lance McCullers Jr. is scheduled to return from the injured list and start Tuesday’s game against the Rangers, manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and other reporters. McCullers went on the 10-day IL on May 26 due to a sore right shoulder, and he’ll be on a pitch limit as the Astros will look to ease him back into action. Jake Odorizzi will work as the piggyback pitcher behind McCullers, as he too is working his way back to full strength following an IL stint due to a forearm strain.
- Both McCullers and Odorizzi will be part of a six-man rotation Houston will deploy over a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, beginning on Tuesday. It is quite possible that further injuries or lack of performance could alter the Astros’ plans over the next three weeks, but assuming everyone is healthy and effective, Chandler Rome thinks Luis Garcia could be the odd man out once the rotation reverts to a five-man staff that would consist of Zack Greinke, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez, McCullers, and Odorizzi. Garcia has pitched quite well this season, with a 2.98 ERA/3.64 SIERA over 63 1/3 innings and above-average strikeout and walk rates. Despite several injuries to the rotation earlier in the year, Houston is now in “good problem to have” territory with a surplus of arms — Cristian Javier has already been demoted to the bullpen after delivering good results as a starter. With Garcia also possibly joining the mix in July, he could provide a nice boost to the Astros’ middle-of-the-pack relief corps.