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Astros a better destination than the Yankees

Playing in Pinstripes may have it's own kind of glory, but what about winning?

From Boston to New York, Miller chose the Yankees over the Astros
From Boston to New York, Miller chose the Yankees over the Astros
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Winter Meetings craziness has come to an end, it's a good time to reflect on the transactions the Astros have made, and the one they didn't make.

The Astros lost out on two of the top relievers on the market, with Andrew Miller opting to go to New York and David Robertson choosing Chicago over Houston. The Astros ended up making two good deals with two solid relievers anyway though, so Robertson and Miller won't be too sorely missed. In losing out on Miller, The Astros directly contended with the Yankees for a major free agent, which hasn't happened since maybe Carlos Beltran. It's an encouraging sign to fans that team ownership is committed to spending money to field a winning team. Miller opting to go to New York brings up an interesting question though, is Houston a better location than New York for free agents wanting to win?

Before you start laughing too hard and get your Yankee friends to come and gawk at this poor, deluded Astros fan, bear with me a moment. For players there is unquestionably a luster and a specific kind of glory that comes with playing in pinstripes, there is no disputing that. The Yankees are the most successful team in American sports history, and have the best track record of winning, there is also no disputing that. Compared to the Yankee tradition, Houston income tax? Suffocating Humidity during the summer? The Astros certainly don't have the history of on field success that the Yankees do, but let's put all that aside and talk about each team's future prospects. What if, after a player's monetary needs are met, the most important factor for a free agent is winning ball games. Not just next year, but also every year after that. If that's the most important criteria, than the Astros are probably the safer bet.

If we get past the Astros' atrocious first half last season, their run differential during the 2nd half looked an awful lot like the Yankees' run differential. With the Astros' young core of players likely to show improvement, it wasn't a stretch to suggest that the Astros would have a similar record to the Yankees in 2015, and this was before they solidified a terrible bullpen with Gregerson and Neshek, and signed Jed Lowrie.

Beyond 2015, we know that the Astros are positioned for long term success with their excellent minor-league system,  and once they get into contention it looks like they'll have the makings of a yearly division powerhouse, similar to the team's glory years during the Biggio and Bagwell era. Compared to that the Yankees have, well, they still have that limitless spending potential. The thing is, the Yankees have been reluctant to use it as much as they did when George Steinbrenner ran the team. They balked on Robinson Cano's price last off season while still going over the luxury tax for Masahiro Tanaka. Credit the teams scouts for seeing Tanaka's potential, but had they re-signed Cano instead of going for Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, they would have had a clearer shot at Oakland in the wild card standings.

Some of the Yankees' spending decisions may seem odd, but it is part of GM Brian Cashman's plan to bring a more sustainable business model to the team. Cashman is one the game's shrewdest GM's so it shouldn't be surprising to see that while the Yankees have shied away from a few mega deals in free agency that they have quietly constructed a solid farm system. The Yankees are still a few years away from shedding the contracts of Mark Teixiera and Alex Rodriguez, but it seems like once they do they might be back into full-spending mode. With a restocked farm system that could make them very dangerous, much like the 1996 Yankees before going into full dynasty mode.

That's a scary thought to any AL team, in 2014 we've gotten used to a middling Yankees club and have forgotten the ways of the Evil Empire. The Yankees are unquestionably the biggest sleeping giant in the AL, and while they've been napping the balance of power has shifted westward, to an uber-competitive AL West featuring two of the smartest front offices in baseball. For all the smarts of the Astros and A's front offices though, they're just trying to keep up with what was the best team in baseball last year in the Angels and a resurgent Mariners team (who outspent the Yankees for Cano). By the time the Yankees wake up in 2017 or 2018, The Astros may already be ensconced as an AL powerhouse led by Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

Truth be told both teams have interesting futures ahead of them. For believers in the #process, the Astros' future looks like it's getting bright very quickly, and while the Yankees' future looks a little murkier, even pinstripe pessimists don't think they'll be out of game for too long. Prospects can flame out, and free agents can under perform, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for both of these teams.

The fun fact of the matter is that when it comes to next year, free agents like Andrew Miller may have won more games wearing an Astros uniform. Further down the road, Miller may have pitched in some very memorable and meaningful postseason games for Houston, possibly even in a World Series. He may still do that for the Yankees. You can never count out a bottomless wallet with a willingness to spend, but in reading the tea leaves for the immediate future, it would seem like the Astros are the safer bet for free agents wanting to win.