Before I begin, everything's in Excel and linked to Fangraphs; anybody know of a way to imbed some high-level pictures? May help keep me from being so dry...
I keep reading all this talk about windows closing, tax caps forthcoming, and financial constraints dooming the core. Frankly, I don't understand where are this doom and gloom comes from...
Put simply, the status quo has the Astros dominating this division on a go forward basis.
It won't require financial gymnastics either - in fact, should we wish to push money into the pot in a given year to provide some extra juice, we'll have roughly $20M to spend every time (see below):
Let's start with 2021, projected for 38.5 WAR (w/o Springer and Brantley), or half a win behind the Yankees and Twins for the AL lead. More importantly, the Angels and A's each check in ~2 WAR behind us, and again, that's before Springer and Brantley's replacements are identified in FA.
Why don't we talk more about that? I have the perfect replacements for Springer and Brantley ... Springer and Brantley (I know, shocking)!
MLB Trade Rumors projects $125M/5 years and $28M/2 years, respectively. Worried about decline? Don't be - Springer's last two years (~13 WAR) and either of Brantley's years here in Houston would +/- pay for their entire contract. Springer's likely to be worth more than 20 WAR over his, while Brantley should clear 5 WAR even with heavy age-related regression. End result: At the cap with MLB-leading 47 WAR team, 3 WAR better than the WS-winning Dodgers (yuck!).
A Murderer's Row that rivals 2019... as for WAR, the only difference is swapping out Verlander and Cole for Valdez and McCullers - after all, 2019 was positively stacked
Want to know what to do with Correa in 2022? RESIGN HIM! Hell, to illustrate how wide open our window is, I'm assuming a $300M/10 year contract that I only hope his 2021 performance warrants...Even after Correa, Springer, Brantley, and Yuli's option, I still have $40M. More than enough money to get a high end starting pitcher (somewhere between Odorizzi and Wheeler) and a starting level but stopgap catcher while we wait for Korey Lee.
Even with additional regression and the loss of Greinke and McCullers, we still rival the Dodgers from a WAR perspective, and remain the cream (if not the toast) of the league.
In 2023 and 2024, I add a closer to replace Ryan Pressly. I remain more than $20M below a flat luxury tax cap, a dubious proposition at best. I lose ~2 WAR a year to regression, and assume no breakthroughs from the minor leagues, either on the mound or in the field.
At the end of 2024, I end the year where I start this one, with 38.5 WAR and what is likely a decisive lead for the division.
Angels get hit hard with regression while the A's go back to pinching pennies. Only Seattle's huge youth movement is a potential hurdle (naturally Mall Cops still stuck).
I did this to better understand into what sort of salary cap hell we'd put ourselves if we extended our core - who all would we lose? The answer was shocking - nobody. Sure, Altuve and Springer ride off into the sunset in their mid-30s - hopefully with a couple more rings - but we could easily keep a 31 year old Bregman on the same $25M/year deal we gave to Springer. After all the arb raises, we'd still be ... wait for it ... more than $20M below the luxury tax cap in 2025.
The following year we are in a position to resign everybody we wanted ... hell, we could even extend Toro or Straw if they show enough bat to stick.
After all that wheeling and dealing, where does that leave us in 2026? +/- 90 win team that still has $20M of dry powder. More importantly, only 10 wins come from our Top 10 prospects, which of course excludes future draft choices and international signings (hello Pedro Leon!).
Not to mention the fact that projections are naturally conservative (3.5 WAR for Alvarez) and the model excludes the possibility for any big leaguers to improve upon their current numbers (Toro, Straw, Urquidy, Javier, and the list goes on).
After nearly 1,000 words, the point is quite simple - rumors of the Astros' demise have been greatly exaggerated.