Astros Primed for a Team Record Shattering Payroll in 2017

A look at the potential 2017 Astros payroll if they sign Edwin Encarnacion or Carlos Beltran or both.

Oct 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) hits a single during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in game four of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Astros target? Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) hits a single during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in game four of the 2016 ALCS playoff baseball series at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Houston Astros have been historically middle of the pack regarding team payroll, this could change in 2017. Houston had the eighth-highest payroll in the MLB at the beginning of the 2006 and 2009 seasons (via http://www.stevetheump.com/). As we are aware, just spending the money does not guarantee a team will win. The 2005 Astros started the season with the 12th highest payroll, see where they finished.

The Astros added Brian McCann ($11.5 million), Josh Reddick ($13 million), and Charlie Morton ($7 million) so far. The have also claimed Nori Aoki, who is also due an estimated $6.8 million through the arbitration process. Assuming the Astros don’t add any more outfielders, Aoki will most likely be part of the Astros opening day roster. Should they make another addition, he could be a non-tender candidate. That’s adding $338.3 million to the payroll.

Looking at the estimated Astros payroll from RosterResource.com, the Stros will already have a team record $113,738,000 payroll. While the 2016 team salary fluctuates from place to place, RosterResource.com has it as $99,000,000. Brian McTaggart said last January that it would start at $100 million. Either way, the Astros could have a $100 million dollar plus payroll for only the third time in team history, 2009 was the other time.

If they sign Beltran.

Sep 21, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Carlos Beltran (36) reacts after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, on High Heat on Baseball Network, Jeff Luhnow said that he is looking to add one or two more bats. There are a lot of whispers out there that the team is going hard after Carlos Beltran. He would play left field for the Astros if they sign him. Let’s assume that he is seeking a two-year deal for between $14-16 million dollars per season.

Let’s split the difference and say Beltran signs for $15 million. This will put the estimated payroll at $128,738,000 for 2017. As much as the Houston front office believes in A.J. Reed, they may not believe that he’s ready to contribute yet. The Astros have been linked to Edwin Encarnacion and most recently, Mike Napoli as options to play first base. I made a bold prediction that the Astros would sign Encarnacion and I’m not backing down.

If they sign Encarnacion.

Encarnacion reportedly turned down $80 million dollar contract offer from the Blue Jays this offseason. He was reportedly seeking a five-year $125 million dollar deal this offseason, but he has yet to sign. He could be waiting for the new CBA to be revealed to see if the Red Sox or Yankees could offer more. The big free-agents are waiting to see what the new luxury tax threshold is before signing a deal.

What is he does sign Encarnacion, let’s say it would take $20 million for five years to sign him. Let’s assume that signing Encarnacion prevents them from getting Beltran. That would raise the estimated payroll to $134,738,000. That would be crazy for the mid-market Stros, but we don’t know how much Jim Crane upped the budget. They could see this as a window to win, so they could do something crazy.

If they sign both.

Sep 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Yulieski Gurriel (10) and shortstop Carlos Correa (1) celebrate after scoring runs during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Luhnow did say he was interested in adding two bats. What if the Astros added BOTH Beltran and Encarnacion? It is not likely they can sign both, but what if they are trying to? As my co-host, Brandon said Sunday during Talking Stros. They want an offense to pound opposing teams. Just imagine adding these two players to the lineup, in addition to the other offseason moves. Take a second to think about it.

Now that you are back from the clouds, who would you bat ninth? Just for entertainment purposes only, let’s create a potential lineup.

2B – Jose Altuve

3B – Alex Bregman

1B – Encarnacion

SS – Carlos Correa

LF – Beltran

CF – George Springer

C – McCann

DH – Evan Gattis/Yulieski Gurriel

RF – Reddick

Record-shattering payroll?

This could shatter the previous high salary of $103 million in 2009 and put us in the AL elite. Adding both players would bump the 2017 estimated salary up to $149,738,000. I know what you are thinking, this is overkill. We don’t need both players. We should use some of that money to upgrade the starting rotation.

Gurriel would play more than you think, but he will have to learn how to play the outfield. Remember that Reddick struggles to a .366 OPS versus left-handed pitching. Just wanted to give you an example of what the Astros could be thinking, but it depends on what other teams can offer them. Imagine opposing pitchers having to face this lineup. Technically, there will be no need for Aoki, so they could non-tender him to save $6.8 million.

While we are dreaming, why not dream big? I will believe it when I see it, but at least the front office is trying to make a difference. I don’t think that Crane had a 50% increase of payroll in mind at the start of the offseason. In Luhnow we trust, let’s go all the way in 2017! This could get fun fans. If we sign neither, we are still good.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference. Salary info from Roster Resource and Steve the Ump***

(Estimated team payroll is subject to change through the arbitration process.)

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