Houston Astros: Fifth best free-agent destination for 2016?

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The Houston Astros started the 2015 season with a payroll of $72 million, which finished at about $92 million after trades and prospect promotions. These payroll numbers come from Brian McTaggart’s piece on the Astros increasing salary for 2016. The Astros have money to spend; the question is whether or not the free-agents will want to come to Houston?

It was reported last offseason that several key free agents turned down more money to play for other teams besides the Houston Astros. These included, but not limited to, Ryan Vogelsong, Andrew Miller, and David Robertson. Maybe it wasn’t cool to join a team that had lost 100+ games in four of the last five years, with the one year being 92 losses. You can see why the premium free agents may not have jumped on the Astros train before the 2015 season, but what about after the year they almost eliminated the World Series champs Royals?

This is a question I have asked myself recently, especially since Astros media hinted this past offseason that the Astros might have to overpay to get a free agent to sign. Is this still the case? The Astros offered a Qualifying Offer to free agent Colby Rasmus for $15.8 million to get him to stay. Yes, as Michael Mitchell wrote that it is a way to get a draft pick out of a team that signs him. To sign a player like Alex Gordon or Jason Heyward, do the Astros still have to overpay for them?

Bleacher Report published a slide show that addressed this very topic but focused on all 30 teams and where they ranked regarding attractability for potential free agents. Here is the link to the Astros slide, you might be surprised as to where they ranked prior to last season. Before the 2015 season, BR had the Astros were ranked as the 13th best free agency location. With the improved play, the Astros are now ranked as the fifth most desirable free agent destination. Has Hustletown turned into FreeAgentTown?

You might be asking how Bleacher Report broke it down how they calculated this ranking? The article used these categories below and next to them is where they ranked the Astros. Following each one, I add some information as an Astros fan.

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Fan Base: 3/5

The Astros finished 22nd in the majors concerning attendance with an average attendance per game of 26,587 fans per game according to ESPN MLB attendance tracker. This is one of the reasons that Bleacher Report did not rank them higher because the fans have not supported the Astros as they should. While attendance improved towards the end of the season, I don’t see Crane spending money on big time free agents until fans start showing up to the baseball games.

Payroll Situation: 4/5

The payroll situation goes hand in hand with the attendance. The reason the article gave them such high score on salary, is because they only have about $40 million of salary on the books at the moment, but could change with arbitration and free agent signings. The bottom line is that there is money available to the right player, Crane and Jeff Luhnow are not compulsive buyers. Luhnow will use the money he is allocating to improve the team the most efficiently that he can.

2016 Outlook: 8/10

Some people are saying that the Astros could be dangerous again in 2016. With a few additions to plug in some holes in the roster, the Astros have a chance to advance further in 2016. Why not join Crush City as they learn how to play better baseball and ride the current to the playoffs? The only reason I could guess that the writers gave the Astros an 8/10 in that category is that the Astros are young enough to fall flat on their faces in 2016.

Long Term Outlook: 10/10

The Astros are good right now, just imagine how good they can be with the likes of A.J. Reed, Mark Appel, Joseph Musgrove, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Daz Cameron are ready to contribute. MiLB.com recently voted the Astros as having the best farm system, with the Triple-A team winning the PCL Championship in 2015. Luhnow has created a farm system that should replenish players throughout the years. With Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers still young, imagine what happens when they hit their prime.

Next: Houston Astros: Correa, Keuchel, and Altuve win big at the 2015 MLB Players Choice Awards

With all this to consider, I think free agents will be willing to come to Houston, but will the Astros be aggressive with trying to make the best offer? Don’t look for Johnny Cueto, David Price, or Chris Davis wearing the Astros orange jersey anytime soon. Houston should attract the medium and medium high type of free agents. At this point of the season, we can just sit around and wait for Luhnow’s first move.

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