The 2020 payroll of the Astros has skyrocketed since last year. With empty spaces on the roster and needs yet to be filled, it’s only going to go higher.
The Astros payroll has increased by roughly $30 million over what it was at the end of the 2019 season. Houston was a little over $8 million under the Luxury Tax Threshold last year. Before the season has even begun and the roster is complete, they are already looking at surpassing this year’s threshold by about $28 million.
The Astros seem to find themselves in a bit of a predicament. The 40-man roster is currently sitting at just 38 players. They have gaping holes in their bullpen, still need a starting catcher, and probably a starting pitcher or two. At almost $30 million over the threshold already and with big gaps still in the roster, something has to give.
First, let’s take a quick look at this year’s Luxury Tax Threshold and the different penalties if a team exceeds the limits. The 2020 Tax Threshold is at $208 million, a $2 million increase over last season. On any payroll the Astros incur over that threshold, they will be levied a 20% tax penalty. If they exceed it by $20 – $40 million, they will be assessed an additional 12% on that amount, on top of the 20%.
So, if the payroll is at $227 million ($19 million over the threshold), they will pay a tax penalty of $3.8 million. Let’s say their payroll is at $247 million, with the extra penalty, they would be taxed slightly over $10 million in total.
Now, the Astros owner Jim Crane has already said he pretty much knows they’ll be going over that dreaded threshold. Eying the current situation, it seems inevitable. But how high is he willing to go? I can’t help but think with the needs that the front office wants to fill this offseason, somebody has got to go.
“I think anybody can do the math on where we’re at,” Crane told MLB.com via phone Monday. “We’ve got a few holes. We need to sign a catcher, need a few arms — bullpen, maybe a starter. When you look at those ingredients and look at where we’re at, more than likely that will put us over the luxury tax.”
For the sake of this article, I’m using spotrac.com as my source for the payroll figures. The total payroll also includes the projected salaries of the players that are arbitration-eligible. The numbers and totals do differ slightly from source to source, but they all tell the same story. The Astros are in a bind.
I think it’s safe to say Gerrit Cole is now out of the picture, as his value continues to rise. I also can’t help but think, the salaries of a player or two might have to be shed this offseason to make room for improvements over the current roster. Josh Reddick or Carlos Correa maybe? We’re only one day into the Winter Meetings, but the front office sure has their work cut out for them.