FanPost

Astros can remain competitive with reduced payroll


There have been quite a few discussions regarding payroll for the Astros next year and I find myself wondering what kind of team they could put together for less.  I'm of the camp that, given their payroll, they should be competitive.  I feel that some of the recent posts have assumed that the team will be worse off next year with a lower payroll.  They were competitive for half a season in 2009, what's going to change in 2010?  Can they really field a better team for less?  Well here's my two cents for a competitive team next season given a payroll in the low $90M's:

Infield:

1B - Lance Berkman ($14.5)

2B - Kaz Matsui ($5.5)

SS - Tommy Manzella ($0.4)

3B - Andy Marte ($0.5)

C - Humberto Quintero ($0.7)*

IF - Geoff Blum ($1.5)

IF - Jeff Keppinger ($0.5)*

C - Josh Bard ($1.0)

I have assumed that the Astros could trade J.R. Towles to Cleveland for Andy Marte.  Marte is out of minor league options and would not clear waivers again this year should he have a slow start.  The Indians are looking for catching talent and a change of scenery for both players would be welcome.  I feel that Blum is more valuable coming off the bench and spelling Berkman and Marte in the infield.  Keppinger can be a super utility player and get time mainly at 2B and SS, as well as the occasional time at 3B.  Bard (who is a free agent) is a switch hitting catcher that can hit and his defense is passable.

Outfield:

LF - Carlos Lee ($19.0)

CF - Michael Bourn ($4.5)*

RF - Hunter Pence ($2.5)*

OF - Jason Bourgeois ($0.4)*

OF - Frank Catalanotto ($1.5)

Boureois is a quality player and would get time spelling all three during the season.  He needs some ABs to prove his worth.  If he has a slow start, Bogusevic, Ramirez or Abercrombie could prove capable of provinding backup services.  Catalanotto (a free agent) is a professional hitter coming off the bench and a lefty to boot.

Starting Rotation:

Roy Oswalt ($15.0)

Wandy Rodriguez ($5.0)*

Rich Harden ($5.0)

Bud Norris ($0.4)

Felipe Paulino ($0.4)

Oswalt and Wandy are capable in the 1 & 2 slot.  However the 3 & 4 slot worry me.  I have inserted Harden in the number 3 slot.  He's a free agent and I think the Stros can make a pitch for him.  If he is unavailable, then the team could pick up Brad Penny for a little cheaper.  I hope that Norris can improve on last year's performance.  And Paulino needs to be given a true chance to show his stuff.  The expectations are low, hopefully he can pull through.

Bullpen:

RP - Chris Sampson ($0.6)*

RP - Alberto Arias ($0.4)

RP - Tim Byrdak ($1.0)*

Long - Brian Moehler ($3.0)

Setup - Jeff Fulchino ($0.4)

Setup - LaTroy Hawkins ($4.0)

Closer - Mike Gonzalez ($4.5) 

The bullpen is going to be difficult with the uncertainty of Hawkins and Valverde.  The Astros have plenty of arms to fill the pen.  Should any falter, there are other options that could provide servicable at the top end (Gervacio, Wright et al.).  Byrdak is the lefty specialist of the day.  Moehler can pitch long and provide spot starts.  Fulchino and Hawkins provide setup services.  Sign Mike Gonzalez to close - he is dominant when healthy and, besides the wind-up, looked pretty good last year.  I think he'll be itching to close and I'm not sure the Braves will give him the opportunity. 

I figure this 25 man roster would cost about $92.5M.  You will note that I have indicated with an asterisk all players that are arbitration eligible.  I've inserted salaries for next season that I believe are conservative.

I hope this post shows that the Astros can work with their (reduced) payroll and still remain competitive.  They may not make the playoffs but I think they can keep up with the big boys.  Look forward to your comments (including assumed salary numbers) and ideas.

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