Thanks largely to the Rangers and Mariners faltering in September, the Houston Astros find themselves with a slim one game lead in the AL West. With arguably the easiest schedule amongst all the AL contenders the rest of the way, the Astros are in a prime position to secure another division title and hopefully make another deep run in the postseason.
While there is still a lot of baseball left to be played in 2023, it is never too early to start looking ahead to see what the roster next season might look like and what areas need to be addressed this offseason. Before that can happen, though, we must first look at what the Astros' payroll situation is going to be in 2024.
Current projected 2024 Houston Astros payroll
All Astros payroll figures for the purposes of this have been pulled from Spotrac and are subject to change. Sometimes unknown incentives or details of contracts become public knowledge and can mess with the payroll along with options, buyouts, arbitration figures, and not tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players. This is an initial glance, not the final numbers. One important figure to keep in mind is the luxury tax threshold which will be $237 million in 2024.
Total projected 2024 payroll: $179,478,141
Projected luxury tax payroll: $189,785,284
Variable costs: The Astros only have one contract option that could factor into things and that is Hector Neris' option which was recently converted from a club option to a player option. It is fair to guess that Neris probably won't pick up his $8.5 million extension given how awesome he has been, but it is worth mentioning as a possibility here.
The biggest question mark in terms of variable costs are Houston's arbitration eligible players with Framber Valdez (3rd year) and Kyle Tucker (2nd year) topping the list. Both of these guys are likely to get significant raises over 2023 and how much they actually end up getting will determine a lot about Houston' payroll flexibility in 2024.
How the Astros' current payroll projections could effect them this offseason
Trading for Justin Verlander at the deadline ate up a lot of space on Houston's payroll for 2024 as he is set to make north of $43 million. Combine that with the $30.5 million and $29 million that Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve respectively are set to make in the last year of their contracts and that is a lot of money tied up in just a handful of guys.
While it seems like Houston may be approaching the limit of how much owner Jim Crane is willing to invest in payroll, the team also knows that 2024 may be their best last shot at contention for a bit. As a result, it wouldn't be shocking to see Houston push their limits a bit with some short term deals to make a push next season.
The elephant in the room, of course, is how long the Astros can keep this team together. There have already been overtures to Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez on contract extensions, but those early talks didn't get anywhere. When one factors that along with the fact that the Astros somehow have yet to even talk to Altuve about an extension does make one wonder if we could see a big shake-up with the Astros' roster after next season. As it turns out, having a bunch of Scott Boras clients on your roster complicates things quite a bit.