Spending money to spend money should not be the focus for the Houston Astros this offseason. Nor should offseason spending be the primary factor in calculating the organizations’ offseason success. A $20 million increase in payroll may not seem like much, but in my opinion, could possibly be more than they need.
In the final 125 games of the 2014 season the Astros posted a 59-66 win-loss record. While that is still short of being even, this was a significant improvement from the 11-26 record that they posted to begin the campaign. And the final 125 games saw the Astros with some critical areas of concern while dealing with some injuries.
There were a pair of injuries that stick out in my mind. Two outfielders missed a lot of playing time during the Astros near .500 run to conclude the season. Dexter Fowler, an offseason acquisition, was known for a high on-base percentage albeit a history of being prone to injury. George Springer, the highly touted rookie, hit for power and played spectacular defense prior to being shut down for the season due to a left quad strain.
Matt Dominguez had an abysmal second half. He posted video-game numbers; the ones that I typically post in MLB The Show when I try to be a position player. (I can’t hit to save my life, even in a video-game.) Dominguez had a decent start to the season in terms of batting average. In the final three months, however, his batting average nose-dived from .212 in July to an absolutely dreadful mark of .138 in September.
This contributed to the Astros batting .209, as a team, at third-base during the second-half. The opposite side of the diamond is equally concerning.
One of the Astros top prospects, Jon Singleton, played most of the team’s games at first base since his call-up at the beginning of June. Singleton hit 13 home runs in his rookie season. Aside from that, the numbers are not good. Jon actually had a worse batting average than Dominguez for the month of September. Overall, however, Singleton had a paltry .168 batting average with a 37.0% strikeout rate through 95 games in the major leagues.
These are a handful of problems the Astros had to deal with during the final four months of the season. One may wonder how they could have played to the tune of a 59-66 record in those 125 games. I remind people of the 2014 batting champion Jose Altuve; a Gold Glove winner Dallas Keuchel; the Astros’ Rookie of the Year in Collin McHugh, who was an offseason waiver claim.
A lot of people out there still discount the Astros and their methods. Some say that they will never win the division, let alone a playoff game and certainly not the World Series in the future.
As for me?
I see a team getting over the .500 threshold next season. A healthy outfield and some infield upgrades should make this a strong possibility. The increase in payroll? A luxury Jeff Luhnow can use to get this team into playoff contention ahead of schedule.