Jeff Luhnow sat in front of a large media contingent yesterday that was hoping to gain some juicy insight into the MLB investigation about whether the Astros stole signs during the 2017 season. Instead, he dropped a surprise twist on us all and said that the Astros would like to move some salary to sign a top-end starter. The first name that came to mind was Gerrit Cole, especially after Scott Boras alluded to the Astros being a “mystery team” who was in on his services.
Though the Astros reportedly made a run at bringing Cole back, he ultimately signed with the Yankees for nine years at $324 million. That might be a tough pill to swallow for the Astros and their fans, but there are still some goals left for the offseason. They would like to shed some of Josh Reddick’s $13 million salary, but not too many teams would take on all that money. The team is also not likely to trade Zack Greinke, so who could the Astros move to free up some salary room?
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Astros are considering trading Carlos Correa. According to Roster Resources, Correa is projected to make around $7.4 million in 2020. That would not even be enough to get the Astros under the luxury tax threshold, but there is more. As Rosenthal mentioned, the Astros could also package all of Reddick’s contract as part of the trade. In return, the other team would trade the Astros something that they need.
Ben DuBose joined the Locked On Astros podcast last night to discuss this. As he said, the Astros would not make this move just to dump salary. They would have to have a next step lined up before they considered making that trade. Either way, this is all speculation at the moment.
There are several angles as to why this trade would make sense.
First of all, the Astros could really just be trying to get under the luxury tax threshold. If they did trade Reddick and Correa, the would be saving around $20 million. Alex Bregman would then become the everyday shortstop, Abraham Toro could be a candidate for everyday third baseman, and Kyle Tucker would be penciled in to get the bulk of the playing time in right field. Correa is a gold glove shortstop when healthy, but Toro has shown promise and while Reddick is a great defender who can still hit at the plate, the Astros have cheaper options.
Secondly, the Astros are not likely to retain Correa when he reaches free agency. By trading Correa now, the Astros open up the ability to offer Springer an extension, who seems open to the idea.
Thirdly, if they wait to trade Correa next year his value could be less than it is now, especially if his back issues were to continue.
Of course, were they to hold onto him, there is a chance they could gain a compensation pick for him like they did with Cole. He could also have a huge impact on the Astros chances to make the playoffs in 2020. For those reason, as Ben stated, any trade of Correa will have to be graded on what they get back in return for him.
The main thing I can think of at this moment is that any trade involving Correa should be for something you need right now. That bigger need would appear to be a major-league-ready starter as the team has had much more success developing hitters. Were the Astros able to turn Correa into, let’s say, Luis Castillo, that would certainly be much more acceptable than a salary dump. We have heard some whispers of this, but let’s not take that plunge until we see some credible people weighing in. However, that move does make sense for both teams, especially with the Reds struggling offensively in 2019.
While not going too deep into that, I do think that Luhnow could possibly turn Correa and Reddick into a controllable young starter. You would not trade a player like Correa just to dump salary, you would also want to get something in return. As Luhnow said yesterday, they are in uncharted territory in Houston in terms of the payroll.
The Astros’ luxury tax payroll is estimated by Roster Resources to be around $231 million. That’s way above the $208 million luxury tax threshold and approaching the second threshold at $248 million. If the goal was to try to re-sign Cole, then maybe the Astros will not revisit this. If there were other factors in play, then we could possibly see the Astros trade the 25-year-old shortstop in order to accomplish another goal.
Last night was crazy y’all. Today could be even crazier.