Some things to talk about while we mourn the loss of things to talk about with the Hank Conger trade...
1) Clarifying the payroll situation
Remember that $20 million increase in budget Houston owner Jim Crane promised? It appears that already included the increase from the Root Sports deal getting approved. That means the payroll could end up around $70 million in 2015.
Evan Drellich also quoted a number for the amount Houston will receive from Root Sports under the new deal. According to this story, the Astros will receive $58.6 million in rights fees from Root Sports in 2015. That's about $22 million less than the reported $80 million Houston was set to receive in rights fees from CSN Houston.
That new figure gives Houston the ninth-richest rights deal in baseball, but the Rangers, Angels and Mariners (three teams in their own division) are Nos. 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Losing anything from the $80 million Houston had previously been reported to have means less competition with division rivals.
It also brings up a sad "what-if" scenario for the team. When Texas was negotiating its mammoth rights deal with Fox Sports, Houston could have done the same. The Astros could have cashed in and likely gotten much closer to the $150 million per season the Rangers will receive.
Yet, at the time, Astros owner Drayton McLane and Rockets owner Les Alexander wanted their own TV station, so they could reap the profits of direct ownership plus TV rights. They'd wanted that station for quite some time, but it alos helped McLane sell the team when he did for a tidy profit.
What if McLane and Alexander never had hatched the idea for a new network? What if they had signed a lucrative deal with Fox Sports instead?
We'll never know what could have been, but at least Houston's payroll should be closer to respectable next season. That's...something.
2) Rookie of the Year voting
Sadly, Collin McHugh nor George Springer won Rookie of the Year this season. Yet, both finished in the voting that was announced Monday evening.
McHugh finished fourth behind the three finalists of Jose Abreu, Matt Shoemaker and Dellin Betances. Springer only received one third-place vote, but may have finished higher had his season not gotten scuttled early due to injury.
Evan Drellich talked about his ballot here. He voted for Abreu, McHugh and Betances in that order.
Were it not for Abreu, Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh, 27, very well could have won the award. McHugh took my second-place vote and finished in fourth place overall. After going 11-9 with a a 2.73 ERA, McHugh received six second-place votes and three third-place votes in all.
I'm glad someone recognized what a great season McHugh had. He was arguably better than Shoemaker, but not playing on a playoff-bound team will hurt ones cause. Plus, McHugh didn't have any flashy numbers to bandy about and steal the national consciousness.
Still, a nice showing for a young team that will have plenty of other candidates in future seasons.
3) Upgrading the infield a priority
Well, for all of you who are frustrated with Matt Dominguez and the shortstop play in Houston, good news. It seems Jeff Luhnow is also upset.
In an interview with Evan Drellich, general manager Jeff Luhnow said none of his infielders have jobs locked up:
"Obviously, we're going to give Jonathan every chance to make this club," Luhnow said. "We're going to give Matt every chance to make this club. But we're not going to hand them those positions. They're going to have to earn those positions, because we're at the point now where the development at the big leagues is behind us, and this is about producing. And if they don't produce, still both those guys have options. Both of them could end up back in (Class AAA) Fresno.
That'd be Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez, or Houston's entire left side of the infield. Luhnow went on to say that he doesn't expect Carlos Correa or Colin Moran to make an impact with the club next season, either. If Houston upgrades, then, it will come via free agency or trade.
Whether that competition comes from Hanley Ramirez or someone further down the spectrum (Everth Cabrera, etc.), it seems like Houston will be trying to upgrade the position.
My only other thought on this story is this. Many have criticized the front office for jettisoning guys who they did not bring in and standing behind "their guys." Here, Houston's doing both. They're not going to give Villar more chances than he deserves while doing the same for Matt Dominguez, one of Luhnow's first trade acquisitions.
It's a small sign, but to have faith in this front office, you have believe they can recognize their own problems on the roster. Right now, this is talk. If they do try to shore up the position heading into next year, we can feel better about their ability to do so.