The Houston Astros are in need of some help.
Coming off a horrifying 51-111 campaign that ended with 15 straight losses, the Astros are ready for change. They have a bounty of young prospects and a few good pieces, but the Astros need a cog in their lineup that they can rely on for top-level production.
Normally, the Astros would be nowhere near contention for such a player. They have only been able to stay afloat recently due to a payroll that Alex Rodriguez could pay with his salary alone.
I’m not kidding- Houston only shelled out $21 million last year (by far the lowest total in the league), which was good, because only 1.6 million fans showed up to the ballpark (27th in the league).
By the end of the season, Houston had drawn the ever-elusive zero Nielsen rating, meaning that Houston natives would rather watch infomercials than the “disAstros.”
But now the team seems ready to spend, and spend they’ll have to do in order to get any big-name free agent to come play home games at Minute Maid Park.
Enter Shin-Soo Choo, the coveted free agent outfielder who gets on base at a tremendous clip and will score tons of runs with comparable bats behind him. I believe that the nucleus of Jason Castro, Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter and now Dexter Fowler is an up-and-coming lineup that will be able to plate Choo 100-plus times in 2014.
That is, of course, if Jim Crane wants to fork over around $150 mil for Choo’s services. Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, has said that he’s using the Jacoby Ellsbury deal as a guideline for what Choo is seeking. That means that Houston will have to pony up something close to the $153 million Ellsbury got over seven years from the Yankees.
One thing is certain: the Astros have some money to spend. After not spending for years, it seems that the team bringing in Dexter Fowler and his $5.8 million per year contract has signaled the spending spree is finally here.
But there’s an obvious difference between a $5 million contract and a $20-25 million one. Does Crane have enough pennies in the piggy bank to lure Choo to Houston?
I believe he does, but I’m not sure he’ll spend it. Houston has been built on youth and cheap veterans for several years now, and while I think their team is changing, I’m not sure I see them completely abandoning their gameplan.
But then again, the system is clearly broken. Why not pay Choo his money, get a stud outfielder for at least half of his contract (Choo is 31 years young) and maybe contend in an AL West that could be mediocre next season.
And if Choo turns out to be as good as advertised for the entire length of the likely seven years he’ll get, then Houston just hit the jackpot.
There really wouldn’t be any downside to bringing Choo in, outside of Crane’s wallet. The Astros really struggled to get production from their outfielders last season, and Choo would make a great defensive pair with Fowler. When the Astros’ top outfield prospect, George Springer, is ready to make the jump to the bigs, he’ll have two great mentors ready to guide him toward stardom.
Shin-Soo Choo may be just the guy Houston needs, and not just for now. The Astros have been planning for the future for years now, and Choo may be a big part of that future.