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What Will A 50-60 Million Dollar Astros Team Look Like?

Jim Crane has said that he would like to increase the payroll this off-season. What could a team with this payroll look like, and how good could they be?

Bob Levey

As we approach the start of the free agent season, there are going to be many names out there that may have Astros fans salivating at the thought of seeing them in Minute Maid Park.  The Astros payrollwas under 20 million this year, so the budget for free agent shopping will be around 30-40 million.  Let's take a look at what the Astros could get out of a 50 to 60 million dollar lineup.

Right Field

Between Justin Maxwell, L.J. Hoes, Trevor Crowe, Rick Ankiel, Jimmy Paredes, and J.D. Martinez, Right Field produced a total of -2.2 WAR.  Only Hoes and Martinez will be back next year since Paredes decided to take his talent of running into second basemen to South Beach.

Notable free agent right fielders are:

  • Shin Soo Choo
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Marlon Byrd
  • Mike Morse

The guy that the Astros have been linked to the most has been Choo.  With an OBP of .423, Choo is a beast at getting on base.  Cruz is good for 25 bombs a year, but he is just getting off of a PED suspension and I'm not sure that the front office wants to take a risk on him.  I'm not sold on Beltran.  Yes, he is a great player, but if the Astros are going to sign somebody, it should be someone who will still be productive over the next few years.  Beltran is going to be 38 years old next season and the Cardinals have given him a qualifying offer of $14.1 million.  I don't think the front office is going to pay for a player that may start to fall apart soon.  If they are going to throw some money at somebody, it should be Choo.  Another note about Choo is that last year he posted a 5.2 WAR.  Combine that with the -2.2 that we produced from right field last year ant it tuns into a 7.4 game improvement.

Since Choo has received a qualifying offer from the Reds, the Astros would have to send them a compensation pick and pay him more than $14.1 million.

Relief Pitching

The bullpen was historically bad last season.  They recorded a total of 32 saves, while also giving up 29 blown saves.  The Astros had the lead by a slim margin 61 times this year, and only won in that situation a little more than 50% of the time.  While most of the time it's a bad idea to shell out money for relief pitching, the Astros don't need to get the best relief pitchers.  They just need to get above average pitchers on short term deals, while waiting for more arms to come from Oklahoma City.  The bullpen is a fixable problem.  Some relievers that could come cheap are:

  • Joe Smith
  • Jose Veras
  • Matt Albers
  • Luis Ayala

Joe Smith has been solid for most of his career, and could be had for cheap.  Last year he made $3.2 million, and the Astros could get him for around that.  Jose Veras was fairly reliable last season for the Astros and Detroit while only making $1.8 million.  He had 21 saves and only 4 blown saves.  Matt Albers, who had a decent season with Smith in Cleveland, could sign for around $1.8 million.  He had 63 innings of work and had an excellent 0.29 HR/9 rate.  Luis Ayala is a seasoned veteran and had an average season last year.  He could also come to Houston for cheap.  Last year he only made $900,000.  All four of these guys would cost us $7.7 million and result in a 10 game improvement.

So far, $21.9 million has been sent and the Astros have possibly improved by an estimated 17 games, improving the win total from last year to 68-94, and there is still $8.1-$18.1 left to play with!  For the sake of entertainment, let's try to go with $18.1 million.

Starting Pitching

Some of the starting pitching was great, but there is room for improvement.  Personally I'm done with Keuchel and Lyles.  That leaves Peacock, Oberholtzer, and Cosart.  Asher Wojciechowski will be called up next season, but we aren't sure if he's going to make the team out of spring training.

  • Bartolo Colon
  • Colby Lewis
  • Ryan Vogelsong

All of these guys would command less than $5 million for a one year deal, and would be an upgrade over Keuchel and Lyles while waiting for guys like Wojciechowski, Appel, Foltynewicz, and McCullers.  Let's say the Astros sign two of these guys for one year and $5 million a piece.  That would bring us to $31.9 million and add maybe 3 wins, which would make us a 70-90 team with $8.1 million left to play with.

What's Left?

Jason Castro proved this year that he could hit, and a hitting catcher is a very valuable commodity.  Luhnow could do something similar to Altuve's contract and sign Castro for five years and buy out his arbitration years.  Third base is covered for the moment with Matt Dominguez.  Although he was not great at getting on base last year, he still has time to improve, plus I like the power that he can hit for.  If he improves, the Astros could lock him up as well.  Villar had flashes of excellence this season and he will most likely improve, but Correa and Fontana are waiting in the minors, and the front office might wait to see how they develop before they decide on Villar's future.  Second base is locked up for the next few years with Altuve.  First base is where things get weird.  Brett Wallace is not going to be the answer, and we also have Carter, Singleton, and Amador.  My guess is that they will contine to use Carter in left field, start Singleton at first base, and see how Japhet Amador works out with DH.  Center field is going to be where Springer plays eventually, but he won't be on the team out of spring training.  If the Astros are willing to wait this long to bring him up, they could wait two months more into the season to call him up so that his arbitration clock starts the next season.  This means that to start the season, Brandon Barnes could be patrolling center.

My projected lineup:

  1. Shin Soo Choo - RF
  2. Jason Castro - C
  3. Jon Singleton - 1B
  4. Chris Carter - LF
  5. Japhet Amador - DH
  6. Matt Dominguez - 3B
  7. Jose Altuve - 2B
  8. Jonathan Villar - SS
  9. Brandon Barnes - CF

Pitching Rotation

  1. Jarred Cosart
  2. Bartolo Colon
  3. Brett Oberholtzer
  4. Colby Lewis/Ryan Vogelsong
  5. Brad Peacock


  • Closer - Jose Veras
  • Set Up - Luis Ayala
  • LOOGY - Darin Downs

The Astros could be a 70 win team before you take into account rookies in our minor leagues helping with our win total.

What are your thoughts?

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