The Astros are likely to settle six arbitration cases this winter, but are there some players not even worth tendering?
The Houston Astros are in full postseason swing, but the payroll will soon change with the conclusion of the season and big-time salaries being offloaded. With numbers fluctuating, arbitration cases will start up this winter, as the Astros have six players eligible.
MLB Trade Rumors released their list of projected arbitration salaries for the upcoming offseason, which included Rafael Montero, Aledmys Diaz, Phil Maton, Josh James, Ryne Stanek and Framber Valdez.
Rafael Montero – $3.1 million
While likely a throw-in from the Kendall Graveman trade, Rafael Montero was making a case to stay with the team through his four appearances. The right-hander worked six innings, striking out five to his two walks.
The right-hander isn’t worth the number above, solely based on his overall 2021 performances (6.39 ERA and 1.54 WHIP) and the right-shoulder injury he sustained, which eventually pushed him to the 60-day injured list. If the 30-year-old is a part of the Astros’ future plans, then a short-term deal worth way less than $3.1 million should be the ballpark they aim for.
Aledmys Diaz – $4.0 million
The Astros have utility infielding options on the rise in Triple-A with Jeremy Pena and Pedro Leon eyeing major-league time in 2022, but another year of Aledmys Diaz can’t hurt. The right-hander has yet to see postseason time this year, but with a rough second half after a wrist injury, Diaz finished the regular season slashing .259/.317/.405.
Four million can be seen as a high number for Diaz, after making $3 million for the ’21 season, and while coming off injury and a season with below average numbers at the plate, this number could be met lower in court. Diaz has displayed the most versatility on the team, after Marwin Gonzalez’s first departure in 2018, and it would make sense for him to return.
Phil Maton – $1.4 million
While being acquired in the Myles Straw trade to Cleveland, Phil Maton hasn’t had the best start in Houston. The 28-year-old pitched in 27 games (25.1 innings) with the Astros during the regular season, posting a 4.97 ERA and a declining 8.5 strikeout per nine innings.
Maton didn’t show much of an improvement on paper or by the eye test, but his peripherals are what drew the Astros’ interests. If Brent Strom stays with the team past 2021, Maton will be a project moving forward, but giving up on the arm you traded your starting centerfielder for doesn’t sound beneficial this winter.
Ryne Stanek – $2.1 million
Of the moves general manger James Click has made since landing Houston, signing Ryne Stanek to only $1.1 million is in the top five. The right-hander has found himself in high-leverage more recently, as his strikeout rate surpassed 10 per nine innings again in his career.
Stanek might not cost $2.1 million on the market but avoiding arbitration and possibly throwing a two-year deal at him should be an option. If the Astros explore the market this offseason, Stanek could still be a cheap, reliable option for another postseason run.
Josh James – $700K
The ballad of Josh James in Houston could be coming to a close at some point. The right-hander finally returned from the 60-day injured list (hip surgery) in August, but then was immediately optioned. Frustrations were evident, as James only got five major-league innings in 2021.
James was always command away from a permanent member of the major-league staff in the last few seasons, but $700K is not a lot to handle. It’s about $200K more than the league minimum, as it would behoove the Astros to keep another optionable pitcher around.
Framber Valdez – $3.2 million
Framber Valdez has pitched his way to being the No. 2 starter in the Astros’ rotation. While being the best lefty option on the pitching staff, the 27-year-old making $3.2 million is totally worth it.
The Astros can always try to work lower than the number provided, but Valdez knows his value and importance to the staff, so it will be interesting to see where the money falls. The left-hander posted a career-best ERA of 3.14 in 2021 (minimum 70 innings).