Astros: The Starting Pitching Market Following Zimmermann Signing


News broke yesterday that the Detroit Tigers took one of the top pitchers off the free-agent market when they signed Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year $110 million dollar contract Sunday. The Houston Astros probably would have been interested in signing a pitcher like Zimmermann, but would they have taken on a $22 million/year contract on? The Astros seem to be very deep regarding quality starting pitchers, why sign an expensive option? The Astros need the depth in the rotation that helped them down the stretch in 2015.

According to Sportrac 2016 MLB Free Agent Tracker, Zimmermann (Market Value $19,912,866) was the fourth best available starting pitcher behind Zack Greinke (Market Value $26,746,866), David Price (Market Value $27,785,490), and Johnny Cueto (Market Value $27,422,023). The Tigers had to pay $22 million a year to sign Zimmermann, that might put the other three pitchers out of the Astros price range.

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With the current Astros under contract, not including arbitration-eligible players, the Astros salary sits at $51,237,500 via Sportac. With the arbitration-eligible players set to make an estimated $30 million according to MLB Trade Rumors, plus all the other player less than four years of service. The payroll as it stands is an estimated $85-87 million, which is why you can see the Astros non-tendering Evan Gattis or Chris Carter before Wednesday’s non-tender deadline, which is what I wrote here: Astros Non-Tender: Can Evan Gattis and Chris Carter be on same team?

Astros fans would like the salary to reach $100 million or more in 2016, to not fall short again in the playoffs. Luhnow recently said that he thinks the salary could reach $100 million, but never says he expects it to happen according to Evan Drellich’s article here.

Below is a quote from Luhnow via Drellich.

"“I don’t know because we’re not operating really towards a number,” Luhnow said. “Obviously, I know I’m not going to spend $150, $200 million. But I’m not necessarily trying to hit a number. I’m trying to put together a team. I know it’s going to be in some range, but I’m focused way more on putting together a team that works for us rather than hitting a number.”- via Evan Drellich."

If the Astros are to stay around $100 million, they can’t afford a $22 million contract like Zimmermann signed with the Tigers. They could aim lower options such as Wei-Yen Chen (Market Value $11,969,477), Doug Fister (Market Value $11,182,597), or Jeff Samardzija (Market Value $12,210,770). The Astros could also go crazy and sign Hisashi Iwakuma for about $15 million for three seasons, despite him being 34-years-old.

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Should the non-tender Carter like most people expect, they would have saved an estimated $11 million between Jed Lowrie and Carter’s salaries coming off the books. I’m starting to think that the Astros will not go past 3-4 year contracts because pretty soon they will have to start paying our young stars. Look for them to bargain shop and not buy the luxury pitcher.