Houston Astros Poised To Make Big Moves This Off-Season

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
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If you’re looking for a team to keep a close watch on this off-season for the moves they make, it’s the Houston Astros. The Astros failed to make the 2016 post-season just a year after they had made it as a Wild-Card team in 2015. The Astros were 2 innings away from being in the 2015 ALCS but the 8th inning collapse is well documented and the Kansas City Royals ended up winning it all following the comeback in Houston.

The Astros are loaded with young talent. The advantage to that is that they’re sitting pretty when it comes to payroll for the next few years. If you exclude arbitration eligible players, you have just Jose AltuveLuke GregersonTony Sippand Yulieski Gurriel on contracts beyond this off-season. Colby RasmusDoug FisterJason Castro, and Luis Valbuena are all free agents for this current off-season and it seems as if they will not be back.

When you look at how things currently align for the Astros going forward, it looks like with current contracts and free agent years in brackets. The players highlighted are starters on their depth chart:

Starting Pitchers:

Bullpen:

Obviously, all of these players are just starters and does not include bench players or high level prospects that could be up and down all season next year. I also didn’t include the entire bullpen as the four players highlighted will likely be the key cogs and the rest will be a revolving door, likely.

When you see how little money is tied up for the Astros going forward, they have a TON of money to play with due to the fact their team is so young and the majority of the roster is just arbitration eligible. The salaries of the above players will change and over the next off-season or two, extensions will be handed out to some of these players as well. Regardless, you get the point. The Astros are young and cheap.

The reason why the Astros are the team you should keep your eye on this off-season is because they have all of the talent in the world to pull off a massive trade or they have available budget to be able to add a big bat via the free agent market. There are two big names that are surfacing around the Astros and they both make sense. They are also both first basemen in Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion.

Let’s start with Cabrera. The Detroit Tigers have already started their off-season by trading away productive 2016 center fielder Cameron Maybin. There are also reports out there that state the Tigers are going to see what they can get for Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Verlander. It could very much be the start of a big rebuild by the Tigers. They are getting younger with the likes of Daniel NorrisJames McCannMichael FulmerJose Iglesias, and likely new center fielder in 2017, JaCoby Jones.

Miguel Cabrera currently has a contract that takes him until 2023 with mutual options for 2024 and 2025. He is owed a TON of money. 2017 he is owed $28 million. From 2018-2021 he will earn $30 million per season followed by 2 seasons of $32 million. It is highly unlikely Detroit gets away without eating quite a bit of Cabrera’s salary, so if the Astros feel they can cover $20-$25 million, the Tigers likely would absorb the rest.

The second big name is Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is the second most sought after bat on the free agent market behind Yoenis Cespedes and has been one of the leagues most premiere sluggers since 2012. From 2010-2016, Encarnacion has the third most home runs in the MLB only trailing former teammate Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera. Encarnacion is reportedly seeking 5 years/125 million for an AAV of $25 million. The Astros do have the money to dish out for Encarnacion and he fits right in at first base/DH.

Why do the Astros feel the need to add a premiere slugger at 1st? Their current crop isn’t too impressive. Jon Singleton was projected to be the 1st baseman of the future but Singleton does not appear to be near Houston’s radar anymore. In 2014, he hit a measly .168 in 362 ABs. In 2015, he only had 58 PA’s and hit .191. 2016 saw Singleton not even touch the majors. In 501 PA’s in AAA, he did hit 20 home runs but he hit only .202. Singleton has been terrible with the bat and nobody thinks he see’s any PA’s in the MLB in 2017.

One of the Astros top prospects in A.J. Reed had 141 plate appearances in 2016 and hit only .164. All of the in-depth stats are ugly looking for both Reed and Singleton, so I won’t even touch those. Basically, the Astros need a 1st baseman to complete their infield and with a bunch of cap space, a need at 1st, and a bunch of prospects to facilitate a trade.

I ultimately do not think that the Tigers will find a trading partner for Miguel Cabrera which leaves Edwin Encarnacion as the Astros top target in my mind. The Toronto Blue Jays are pushing hard to bring Encarnacion back to the team he became a superstar on over the past 5 years but he is listening intently to offers from other teams. It is unlikely Edwin Encarnacion gets a guaranteed 5th year in a deal, so if Houston adds a guaranteed 5th year, they could probably get him.

Keep an eye on the Houston Astros this year. They will be pursuing a potential trade for Miguel Cabrera or will make a run at signing Edwin Encarnacion. Even if they don’t land one of these two big fish, the Astros will make a massive splash this off-season and I do think if they do that, the Astros will return to the post-season in 2017.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors







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