The Houston Astros Could Afford to Pay More for Shorter Contract
The Houston Astros have a luxury that not too many teams have; they have plenty of young players who will be playing cheap for the next three to four seasons. However, it would be a mistake for the Astros to sign a player to a five to seven-year contract, because the current group of youngsters will start getting to arbitration or free agency. According to Jon Morosi, the Astros have the smallest guaranteed salaries in 2017 in baseball at $25.4 million via Spotrac.com. The Astros have the financial flexibility now to make a splash, as long as it’s not a lengthy one.
After the 2016 season, the Astros will have big money guys Scott Feldman, Colby Rasmus, and Carlos Gomez coming off the books, along with what appears to be Jason Castro may be entering his final season as an Astro as well. Several other players could play themselves out of the Astros picture as well this year with poor play similar to what happened with Chris Carter this offseason. Just a side note, Rasmus could sign a short-term deal following this season from what he said in the above Tweet.
CTH writer Michael Mitchell will look deeper into the payroll down the road, but I wanted to focus on why giving a player like Yoenis Cespedes a three to four-year deal would not be a bad deal. Let’s take a look at the guys with already committed contracts for 2017 from Spotrac.
Pat Neshek – Team Option $6.5 M
Luke Gregerson – $6.25 M
Tony Sipp – $6 M
Jose Altuve – $4.69 M
Jon Singleton – $2 M
The 30-year-old Cespedes is rumored to be looking for a long-term deal, but teams seem to be wanting to give him a three-year deal instead. There is a reason Cespedes has been with four teams in four years in the big leagues. I don’t know that much about the guy besides what the stats say, but his effort at times has been questioned by fans and media alike. This is why there is a disconnect between the player and the teams as to how long a contract to offer because teams don’t seem interested in hanging onto him for too long.
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He may not be willing to sign a short-term contract, but the Astros have a window of where they can overpay for free agents before their guys need to start getting paid. Let’s take a look at this window with some of the current Astros stars.
- Carlos Correa will make the minimum for the next three years, and then when he reaches arbitration, he could command more than Dallas Kuechel.
- George Springer will be arbitration eligible for the 2017 season, but he will still probably get less than market value contract for him. He will be under Astros control until 2020.
- Dallas Keuchel has already reached arbitration, so look for the Astros to verify that Keuchel is this good in 2016, as he earned $7.25 M in arbitration for 2016. That number will continue to go up, so look for the Astros to lock their ace up following the 2016 or 2017 seasons. The sooner, the better.
- Jose Altuve will be making less money in his final year in 2019 than Correa could be making at the time. The last season of Altuve’s current contract has a team option with $6.5 M attached to it. Altuve will be playing for about an average of $5 million for the next four seasons. Even Captain Obvious thinks that is a real good deal.
There are other players to keep an eye on such as Evan Gattis, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, and Ken Giles. However, the perceived stars will be under cheap team control for the next four years, which is why you hear people talk about the window that’s open right now. The Astros understand that they will not be able to retain all their current players forever, but there will be a new wave of talent coming soon to offer help.
Why sign an outfielder when you already are five deep in the depth chart, because of the weakness of the 2017 outfielder free agent class as Ken Rosenthal mentions above? The Astros will have two free agent outfielders, so with good years in 2016 and they could increase the value they will receive. Signing someone like Cespedes will guarantee the Astros have a decent option in the outfield mix without having to pay big bucks for a guy maybe not worth it.
This is why the Astros can afford to pay more for the right free agent now because pretty soon their salary will reach $100 million with some of their current stars. However, the Astros current payroll is somewhere around $86 million right now, signing a player like Cespedes will bust the $100 million budget set by the team. Part of me wishes the Astros would come out and say we are done besides minor tweaks to the roster. But isn’t part of the fun of the offseason waiting for something to happen?
**Salaries and Contract Information from Baseball-Reference**