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The Hangover, Trade Deadline Edition: Gaming Out Salary Implications

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

What does the day after feel like? Naturally, it would have felt better with Martin Maldonado throwing out a runner in the 9th for a walk-off Caught Stealing, or Biagini getting key outs, rather than the 10-4 drubbing at the hands of the Tribe last night.

While the 25-man implications seem straight-forward (Urquiddy, Abreu, and Sneed go down), the long-term salary implications of the Greinke contract are more murky.

The Astros currently have the 5th highest payroll. Part of the prospect cost in the Greinke trade involved Arizona shelling out 24 of the 77 million owed to Greinke. He’s expensive, and the Astros are paying him 25 AAV for 2020 and 2021. Add the 29 owed to Altuve next year, and the 33 owed to Justin Verlander, things add up quickly. A few bullets, with my fallible prognosticator cap on:

  • Even a WS MVP won’t keep Cole here. He’s in his prime, will command a lot of years, and will push the Astros way over the luxury cap.
  • Josh Reddick’s probably gone in the offseason. He’s owed 13 million, which isn’t a ton, but he’s been slightly below average as a hitter for his past 900 PAs. He’s a good clubhouse fit on younger teams looking for a reliable veteran. It will be very difficult for the Astros to address offseason pitching and catching needs, while avoiding the luxury tax, without dealing Reddick.
  • It’s Tucker time in 2020. Tucker doesn’t have a lot left to learn in AAA. Maybe he won’t be a star, but he’s likely to outproduce Reddick, and on a rookie salary of roughly $600,000. With decent speed and arm, Tucker can play RF next year, with Marisnick/Straw probably amassing around 300 PAs and provide better defense + help hide weaknesses against LHH.
  • Young Astro arms will get every chance to prove themselves as bullpen guys. This includes Abreu, Martes, Javier, and Paredes, among others. The Astros spent a lot of money getting reliable BP arms (Smith and Rondon, esp.) in 2018. If you have the money, it’s fine spending $8 million on a middle reliever. The Greinke deal means these kind of salary decisions are unlikely, especially since the Astros will need to pay for a catcher as first offseason priority.

I love the Greinke deal, but it contains some risks, especially since we're giving 60 million AAV to pitchers in their late 30s the next two years. That’s a lot of money. The Astros will pay a small tax this year, and it’s unlikely that Crane will want to be a repeat offender, even with a WS repeat on the line.