The Houston Astros have been very limited in what they could do this offseason. As they approach the second luxury tax threshold, they will try some creative ways to save money. After re-signing Joe Smith ($4 million AAV) and Martin Maldonado ($3.5 million AAV), they added $7.5 million. According to Sportrac, they are already projected at more than $229 million payroll. That exceeds the second luxury tax threshold of $228 million.
Outside of trading part of the contract of Josh Reddick, the arbitration process is the main way to save a buck or a million. The Astros have developed a reputation for being willing to head to arbitration hearings.
They will take care of the players who have gone above and beyond with extensions, like Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Justin Verlander, and Jose Altuve. Granted, this is why the Astros are in their current situation with payroll, but it’s what the Astros and their fans wanted. This is what teams struggle with in terms of retaining their young talent. It didn’t help to add Zack Greinke’s salary last year.
However, over the next couple of seasons, some big salaries will come off the books. Meaning the Astros may have some more payroll flexibility that they can be more active in the offseason. They will pick and choose whom they retain and whom they let go, ala, Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez. Even so, they will not be able to keep all their stars.
Like the Astros, the Red Sox are in an awkward position with their payroll, and they are looking to trade David Price and Mookie Betts. Price would mean trying to dump his salary, but Betts is a valuable free agent piece. A team may take on a big salary to get one year of Betts, but no trades appear to be close, especially now that the Sox havebeen thrust into the cheating scandal.
With Springer in a walk season and the Astros approaching the second luxury tax threshold, why are they not trying to trade Springer? MLB trade rumors has a projected salary of $21.4 million. If they would trade him, that would get them close to the first luxury tax threshold. Maybe throw in Reddick ($14 million) while you’re at it. But the Astros would not do that. Springer means too much to this organization.
Some would say he’s the heart of the team. The Astros are not known for retaining their quality players once they hit free agency, but they have been good at offering extensions. If Springer does reach free agency, the Astros will not be able to outbid all other teams.
This offseason, the outfield market has been fairly slow, with so many still looking for jobs. Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig, and Nicholas Castellanos are a few notable names.
Ozuna is a player that I have been keeping an eye on, someone who is similar to Springer’s skill set. Ozuna could get between $14 and $15 million per season for 3-4 years. The outfield dominos should start to fall when Castellanos gets signed, but the Astros don’t have time to wait to gauge the market for Springer’s value. This Friday is the deadline to agree or exchange numbers for arbitration hearings. While contracts can still be settled on after Friday, teams prefer not to go to arbitration unless they have to.
This is probably a separate article, but the Astros will be looking to save money through the arbitration process. Something that I discussed on Locked On Astros recently is the possibility of them trying to agree to an extension before going to arbitration. The Astros have done this before with Springer, so what’s changed now? The Astros could retain their super-leadoff hitter and save money to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
Before we get started, no player cares that a billionaire owner might have to pay an extra 3-4 million in luxury tax. Don’t look for Springer to be accepting any discounted offers to help the team. But, if they could offer Springer between $17-18 million per year for 4-5 years. Springer may be more inclined to settle for less in 2020 to get paid more down the road. Springer would also get to stay in Houston as part of this core of players.
You might be thinking that the Astros may try to offer Springer that, but he will probably be looking for more. With his proven experience as a lead off hitter, MVP contender, and playoff history, he will want more. He probably wouldn’t accept anything less than five years, $100 plus million. Spencer Morris came on Locked On Astros last night and said it’s probably going to take five years at $120 million.
With all the distractions yesterday, it’s hard to imagine that the Astros will be able to get a deal done. They may find some ways to save some money to get underneath the second luxury tax threshold. But, until the verdict of the investigation is handed down, I wouldn’t expect a Springer extension. When I first started writing this, I assumed this could happen. After all, Astros fans need a win.