It was quite surprising to see the Houston Astros sign Josh Hader to a five-year, $95 million contract last week. But if the Astros ink the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner to a mega-deal before Opening Day, that might actually cross the threshold from surprising to shocking.
Bleacher Report's Surprise Landing Spots for Cody Bellinger, Blake Snell and Top MLB Free Agents listed the Houston Astros as one of three surprise destinations for free agent starting pitcher Blake Snell. The outlet also listed last year's World Series contestants, the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks, as two of the other surprise suitors for Snell's services.
Snell, now a two-time Cy Young Award-winner, pitched for the San Diego Padres last season and is said to be seeking a deal worth at least $200 million. The Astros' current payroll is sitting at approximately $239 million, according to FanGraphs, so such a deal would see Houston blow past the Competitive Balance Tax threshold; something they've refrained from doing in years past.
Would the Astros really sign Cy Young Award-winner Blake Snell?
Then again, signing Snell would certainly put the Astros in the driver's seat in the American League West heading into the 2024 season. While the Rangers are the defending World Champions, both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are expected to begin the upcoming season on the injured list. And though the Seattle Mariners just added Jorge Polanco to their star-studded lineup, the Astros would still have arguably the best roster in the division.
The Astros starting rotation currently has Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez and Christian Javier sitting at the top. Houston also has Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Hunter Brown competing for a spot. Adding Snell would incorporate tremendous depth into an already loaded Houston rotation.
While the Houston faithful would undoubtedly welcome Snell with open arms, his contract demands are quite steep. The New York Yankees are the only team to date who've even offered Snell a contract, and it was rejected. That prompted New York to turn their attention to Marcus Stroman, who signed a two-year, $37 million deal with the Yankees.
The urgency to win while both Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are still under contract could be a motivating factor for the Astros to sign Snell. However, the price tag attached to the southpaw appears much too high at the moment.
If Snell remains unsigned once spring training begins, perhaps his contract demands will lessen. In that scenario, a deal with Astros could become more likely. Last season, Snell was 14-9 with a 2.25 ERA in 32 starts. However, his 99 walks led the league. That has to be concerning for any team looking to shell out ace-level money.