Astros' Blake Snell interest could increase odds of future contract extensions

Although the Astros didn't ultimately land Blake Snell, that they were even engaged displays a willingness to spend like they never have before. This could bode very well for future contract extensions.
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

For a few days, it looked like the Astros would land the premier free agent pitcher on the market. News broke this weekend the Astros were interested in Blake Snell, and the news followed an eerily similar pattern to when they landed Josh Hader. 

First Chandler Rome reported it, then he and Ken Rosenthal reported together for The Athletic. It appeared the two-time Cy Young winner could call Houston home, at least for 2024. 

Astros discussions with Blake Snell bode well for future contract extensions

Snell eventually landed with the Giants, signing a two-year deal for $62 million. The Astros weren’t ever going to approach or match the $31 million AAV he received, but that Houston was ever credibly linked to Snell actually bodes quite well for the future extensions of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. 

The Astros' estimated payroll currently sits at $258 million for Opening Day, meaning they have exceeded the first Competitive Balance Tax Threshold. This is the first time they’ve done so by Opening Day under Jim Crane’s ownership, and since penalties weren’t enforced in the 2020 COVID season, this will be the first time they pay the 12% tax. 

The next tax threshold is $277 million, and Houston would pay a staggering 42.5% tax if they got there. They have $19 million to work with before reaching that number. 

While specifics of the Astros' Snell offer never went public, one has to assume Rome and Rosenthal wouldn’t have reported on serious interest in Snell if they were offering him less than $19 million per year. Surely they were somewhere in the ballpark, even if it was around a $25 million AAV. Even on a short-term deal, that Crane appeared willing to approach or cross into the second tier of taxes could mean Houston has entered a new era of spending. 

With Alex Bregman hitting free agency next year, and Kyle Tucker in 2025, it may not be a sure thing Houston loses their home grown stars after all. 

Based on options not yet vested, it’s possible, though unlikely, that Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly’s contracts are off the books after this season. Kendall Graveman’s $8 million will definitely be off the books. 

After 2025, JV, Pressly, Jose Abreu and Rafael Montero will all be off the books. Thats $74 million to play with. Framber Valdez likely comes off the books as well, and while his final year of arbitration salary is obviously not yet known, Houston could have over $90 million in room. 

The Athletic projected a seven year, $210 million contract for Bregman in free agency, and projected eight years, $204 million for Tucker. If Houston gave out those deals, that amounts to $55.5 million. 

Again, Crane still hasn’t shown a propensity to hand out a seven- or eight-year deal, but he did just lock up Jose Altuve through his age-39 season.

A seven-year deal would take Bregman through his age-37 season, and eight years would take Tucker through age 36. 

Could we see Crane pay a heavy tax in 2025 to retain Bregman and then lock up Tucker heading into 2026?

By no means is it a guarantee, but with Houston showing credible interest in spending huge money and flirting with the second tax threshold to land Snell, Astros fans should feel much more confident in the chance the Astros make a serious run at locking up both Bregman and Tucker for the long haul, at least from a salary standpoint. 

Of course, it was the idea of treading too far beyond that tax threshold that seems to have ultimately halted their Snell pursuit, so nothing's a sure thing just yet.