The Astros are in discussions with Wandy Rodriguez on a multi-year deal and will be forced to balance the costs of resigning one of their more consistent veterans with the young foundation their currently building. It’s hard to say how much Wandy will be looking for and what value Houston brass will put on him. He’s been solid the past three seasons but wasn’t fantastic in 2010. In fact, he wasn’t nearly as good as Brett Myers and is also two years older than Myers. With these two, Bud Norris, and J.A. Happ, the Astros only have four legitimate major league starters right now so I’m not surprised they’re looking to lock up Wandy. I’m just not sure how long and for how much.
With Jorge De La Rosa, the most talented free agent starter after Cliff Lee, rumored to be getting 2 years and roughly $22 million with an option for a third year around $11 million, keeping Wandy is the best option the Astros have at a decent rotation. I’d also expect Rodriguez’s agent to reference the De La Rosa deal as leverage for his client. After all, Rodriguez has been stronger than De La Rosa the past three seasons and shows every reason to continue that. The question isn’t if Wandy is worth 3 years and $36 million, it’s if the Astros are willing to offer something in that neighborhood.
Houston’s 2011 payroll is currently at $41.8 million and expected to approach $89-90 million. This would be the third straight season that figure has decreased. In 2009, it was $103 million and in 2010 it was $92.4 million. So even with the decrease, the Astros have room left in their payroll to address their remaining needs; namely a backup catcher, left-handed reliever, fifth starter, and renegotiating with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez made $5 million in 2010 and is now arbitration eligible for the 2011 season. He stands to earn a substantial increase from his previous salary to somewhere in the area of $8 million. Brett Myers signed a contract in 2010 which will give him $11.5 million a year for 2011 and 2012 with a vesting option for 2013. I don’t see the Astros matching De La Rosa’s contract to put Wandy at or above Myers’ pay level. However, if they let Rodriguez get to free agency in 2012, he would most likely get more on the market than Houston would be willing to offer, possibly making these negotiations the two sides’ only chance of coming to an agreement.
I expect Ed Wade to give Wandy a 3 year deal worth around $27-29 million. This would cover arbitration costs for 2011, with a bit of a premium, but keep him under team control with a team friendly deal in 2012 and 2013. As anyone who follows the Astros can tell you, it’s hard to predict Ed Wade. However, locking up their top two starts for the next three seasons at roughly 20-23% of their total payroll would be a great move for the current Astros roster and ‘youth movement’ mindset.
The contract would keep Rodriguez as a reliable number 2 starter for three years until a prospect is ready to step in. It’s also cost-effective and keeps the team at a reasonable and healthy budget while staying competitive. Many question whether it’s worth spending any money if you’re not a contender but it’s important to compete consistently and have your young players learn what it takes and means to have success at the big league level. When teams get away from that, it’s hard to get back. Ask the Royals, Pirates, and Brewers. Getting younger is important, but not at the cost of development and winning.