Ever since Jim Crane and his ownership group purchased the Astros, there have been many changes to Houston’s baseball franchise.
The Jim Crane era in Houston hasn’t always been viewed in a positive light. And rightly so, at times. For example, the Astros were ridiculed extensively for their player payroll, or lack thereof I might say.
Over the course of time though this payroll issue has been somewhat forgotten. Here is the breakdown of the 25-man roster payroll since the 2012 season:
You can easily see the positive trend in terms of payroll, at least based on impact on the 25-man roster. In comparison with the 2013 season, the team’s payroll has risen by roughly 700% by 2016. Since then ownership has spent more money to bring in the necessary pieces to increase the chances of success in 2017.
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Then you have the savvy front office headlined by Jeff Luhnow. This group, which also includes Mike Elias and Kevin Goldstein, have been tremendous in reestablishing the vital pipeline of talent for the major league team through the minors. And you can’t forget about the current Milwaukee Brewers general manager, David Stearns. Not too long ago he was the Astros assistant general manager.
In other words, Astros ownership and front office have stepped up to put a quality product on the field. They haven’t veered from the plan. But money has always remain a constant issue. And there is doubt in my mind whether this franchise has true staying power.
My worst fear for the Astros long term isn’t the ability to identify talent or continuously supplement talent. The primary concern I have is whether this team is willing to pay their core group the major dough when the time comes. You know, the core that includes Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer.
For example, Altuve, Correa, and Springer are currently on the tract to hit the free agent market within a three-year period (2019-2021). This is still a long time away, at least in terms of baseball. At the same I understand that the Astros are out to get the best value for their team. I just hope that they don’t stick to a too hard line approach in any future contract talks. And with any potential free agents that could push this team over the top in the future.
Yet I still feel uneasy about this franchise willing to spend the money necessary to meet those goals. My rationale is if you lose too much of a core within a short period of time then you might as well begin a whole new rebuild. Look no further than the Kansas City Royals current situation. And up to this point, the Astros have not demonstrated the long-term willingness to put their money where their mouth is.
If that undesirable conclusion comets pass, the idea, or hope rather, of the Astros becoming a long term contender is no longer likely. Baseball teams cannot realistically replace their core in quick succession.
At the same time, I must admit that I could be completely off about the Astros not spending money to keep their core players together well into the next decade. If the team continues to win and revenues inch higher and higher, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see ownership fork over the money. The staying power of which I am so concerned about would be guaranteed. Of course all of this contingent on health and a bevy of other factors not related to the baseball diamond.
I will end this long-winded rant like this: the Astros franchise has staying power. The players that are already here and on the way should generate plenty of wins for years to come. But this all dependent on a variety of factors. Spending money wisely happens to be one of them. I apologize if I am just not sold on this quite yet.
**Statistics and salary information courtesy of Fangraphs and Spotrac**