I have spent the last seven games of the World Series thinking about the Astros and Cubs. What exactly is the difference between these former divisional rivals?
Other than winning the 2016 World Series, the glaring difference to me is payroll/roster. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer of the Cubs went all in for the championship. The Astros general manager, Jeff Luhnow, did…nothing, besides adding Ken Giles and Doug Fister.
Yeah, we signed Yulieski Gurriel from Cuba, but Alex Bregman was already flashing the leather at third base. After a rough start at the plate, Bregman was one of our better hitters. That was our only addition to make a run for the championship. It had relatively no effect on how our team ended the year.
The Cubs and the Astros started their rebuild about the same time. Both teams did a great job of restocking their farm system and letting their players develop. The two team have an excellent core set of players to build around.
The Astros core of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer form a mighty trio. If Bregman keeps up like he ended the season, he will be one of our core players, too. The same for Lance McCullers if he stays healthy, then he has a legitimate shot at becoming our ace.
By comparison, the Cubs have a great core of players in Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, and Anthony Rizzo. In my opinion, the Astros are very similar to the Cubs with their core set, and what they have to offer for years to come.
The Cubs went all in, increasing their payroll by 42.6 percent to $171.6 million dollars. The Astros payroll was $98.7 million, and THAT was actually an increase of 36.3 percent from last year!
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While the Astros made their one move in Gurriel and Giles last year, the Cubs did a touch bit more. The Cubs added to their core by adding John Lackey, Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, and Zobrist. Lester and Heyward both make over $20 million.
The Astros had Colby Rasmus as their highest paid player at $15.8 million. However, that was only because he surprised the team and became the first player ever to accept a qualifying offer. Carlos Gomez made $9 million, but he ended up with the Rangers, as he was miserable in an Astros uniform.
The Pay Off
The Cubs went all in, and they won it all. You have to take some chances in baseball to win. Like my Dad said, the 162 game season is really just like a nine inning game; you put your best team on the field. If your team isn’t the best, you do what it takes to become the best, just as you would drop someone and call up another from the minors. In the end, the Astros did not play to win. The part that frustrates me the most is Jeff Luhnow saying (not in the exact words) that in retrospect, he would have made some moves.
What!? Wait, the entire Astros fan base knew we did not have a championship team! Our starting pitching slid backward from last year. Our hitting at times was…well…just not there. The horrendous April that we had should have told him everything he needed to know, but we still did nothing.
The Astros Moving Forward
I know I was so excited when the new ownership came in and hired Luhnow. They said all the right things a fan would want to hear. We would build a core of the team through the draft and trades, and then supplement that with trades or free agents when the core was set and ready. Well, they failed. Miserably. We took a step backward, in fact, and didn’t even make the playoffs.
I pray that this year was a wake-up call for the front office. If there are no bold moves to advance this team, we will be wasting the talent of some players that might not be around longer.
If there are no bold moves made, I personally think Luhnow should be shipped out. Here is to keeping our fingers crossed!
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***