#11: Save more money
Sep 15, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Continue to Focus on Under-the-Radar Acquisitions
By: Elliott Jenkins
Despite calling the 4th largest city in America their home, the Houston Astros are a small market team. They simply do not have the financial means to bid on free agents at the same level that the Los Angeles Dodgers or Boston Red Sox do. They do not have the flexibility to throw a surprise $276 million at their roster needs like the Chicago Cubs did. The Astros had the second-lowest payroll in 2015 at $63.3 million. That’s $210 million less than the league-leading Dodgers, and almost the difference of the entire New York Yankees payroll ($211.7 million to be exact).
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That is not to discredit the Astros’ spending patterns. They ARE spending, but very carefully. Remember, the Astros offered more money to Andrew Miller than the New York Yankees did. Astros fans trust in the front office’s rebuilding plan.
Think back to the early days of the Luhnow era when Chris Carter was acquired. Carter had flashed a bit of power in Oakland, but for a few years, he was a great fit in Houston’s boom-or-bust offense. In 2014, Carter was tied for 2nd place in home runs for the entire MLB with 37. He hit only three fewer than the leader Nelson Cruz, but one ahead of Mike Trout and Jose Abreu. Not bad when you consider Chris Davis’s similar track record but dramatically different asking price.
Consider the acquisition of Ken Giles. The Astros were heavily tied to Aroldis Chapman before the domestic violence allegations and turned down substantial prospect packages requested by Cincinnati. But they found their man at a much lower price with substantially more team control.
The Astros’ slowly ascending payroll is indicative that the new era has arrived, but the front office’s approach to acquisitions remains smart. A smaller payroll means more progress in analytics and evolution in scouting, which have become synonymous with the Jeff Luhnow era of the Astros.
Continue to find lesser-known FAs and trade targets.