The Houston Astros missed the playoffs entirely in 2016, but already have sights on 2017.
Before the season, the Houston Astros added a closer in Ken Giles and a starter in Doug Fister. With the way the rotation performed in 2015, you can see why Jeff Luhnow only added a band-aid fix in Fister for 2016. The moves the Astros made before the 2016 season were minor moves to set a team they thought was ready.
Luhnow gambled on the rotation to pitch the same in 2016. Instead, injuries and poor pitching hurt the team early in the year. On last night’s Talking Stros, Brian T. Smith joined the show to talk baseball. He said that many people didn’t expect Dallas Keuchel to pitch like a Cy Young winner again this year. However, no one saw him digressing so much in 2016.
The Rangers Are Not Going Away.
The Texas Rangers were swept by the Toronto Blue Jays last night. This sent the Rangers home with the same amount of postseason wins that the Houston Astros had this year. Yes, that would be zero. The last two seasons the Rangers have made trades to help leapfrog the Astros. Both seasons, those trades have helped them to finish first in the AL West.
Both years, the Rangers eliminated by the Blue Jays in the ALDS. Just because a team makes the moves at the trade deadline does not guarantee them success in the playoffs. While the Astros plan on building a team from within can work, they need to be supplemented with veteran players as well. Like they did when they brought in Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena before 2015.
The Budget for 2017.
Smith also said that after the end-of-the-year press conference last week, he asked Luhnow about increasing the budget for 2017. Luhnow told him that Jim Crane had given him permission to increase the budget. When asked by how much? Luhnow said that there is a number that he was given, but he will not reveal it at the moment.
“The Astros are starting to realize, especially after the 15-28 start, that prospects are not enough.” – Brian T. Smith
Smith said that “the Astros are starting to realize, especially after the 15-28 start, that prospects are not enough. They have called up the majority of their imminent stars. The farm system is still strong, but not the top one in baseball.” In other words, there is not anyone ready to make an immediate impact next season.
The Astros started last year with a salary somewhere between $90-$100 million dollars. The team shed some salary when Scott Feldman was traded away, and Carlos Gomez was released. But they were free agents to be after the season. It’s too early to look at the projected salary for 2017, but you can imagine that the Astros will have some money to spend.
While the Astros have a great nucleus, the success for next year depends on how much they add to the team. Will management be willing to spend the money or prospects needed to make impactful moves for 2017? My co-host Brandon on Talking Stros believes that they will have between $50 and $57 million dollars coming off the books.
Flexibility to Make Moves?
The Astros have some financial flexibility to make an addition via free agency, but the free agent market is rather thin. Luhnow said at the year-end press conference that the market is not as thin as people think it is. However, I believe the talent is not as deep as in past years.
The Astros farm system is not depleted, but there are not many ready to contribute prospects in the upper levels of the minors. To make a quality addition via trade, the Astros will have to trade some of their top talents. Alex Bregman most likely will be safe, but to acquire a talent like Chris Sale, he may need to be involved.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
As I said last night on Talking Stros, it’s time for the Astros to put up or shut up. The team has done an excellent job of returning to playing competitive ball after multiple years of 100 loses. Adding Fister was a move to stay competitive, Jeff Luhnow needs to make a splash this offseason.
We can’t settle for shooting for second place anymore. We need to shoot for first. A wise man once said, “if you are not first, you are last.” That, of course, was Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights. With the talent in the AL East and the Rangers and Mariners finishing ahead of Houston, the Wild Card will not be as easy to reach as it was in 2015.
Getting the Rangers’ monkey off our backs will be critical. But the team needs to add to the current roster so that they do not rely on so many young players down the stretch. These prospects don’t all take off like Carlos Correa did right away, they need time. Adding so proven guys to a young team is normally when teams make their run.
Luhnow and Crane, show us the money or prospects needed to make this team into a champion! That’s what Uncle Drayton wanted all those years for the Houston Astros. They started to spend by signing Yulieski Gurriel, but they can’t stop there.
***Salary information from Spotrac.com***