Before we get into the potential free agent market for the Astros to dip into this off-season, we need to see exactly what they're on the hook for already...
General Manager Ed Wade is in the 2nd year of a three-year deal, expiring after 2010.
Manager Cecil Cooper is in the 2nd year of a two-year deal, expiring following next season.
SS Miguel Tejada is in the last year of a 6-year, $72 million deal he signed with Baltimore and is owed $13 million in 2009.
1B Lance Berkman is in the 4th year of a 6-year (club option in 2011), $85 million deal he signed in 2004 and is owed $14.5 million in 2009.
P Roy Oswalt is in the 3rd year of a 5-year, $73 million deal he signed in 2006 and is owed $14 million in 2009.
OF Carlos Lee is in the 3rd year of a 6-year, $100 million deal he signed at the beginning of 2007 and is owed $18.5 million (up from $12 million in 2008).
2B Kaz Matsui is in the 2nd year of a 3-year, $16.5 million deal and is owed $5 million in 2009.
3B Geoff Blum has a club option for 2009.
OF Darin Erstad is in the 2nd year of a 2-year deal he signed and is owed $1.75 million.
P Brian Moehler is in the 2nd year of a 2-year deal (with a mutual option for 2010) and is owed $2.3 million.
So that brings the Astros' payroll for 2009 to a guaranteed: $68 million and change.
Players under contract are, by position:
1B: Lance Berkman
2B: Kaz Matsui
SS: Miguel Tejada
3B: Geoff Blum
OF: Carlos Lee
OF: Darin Erstad
P: Roy Oswalt
P: Brian Moehler
Here are members of the everyday 08 roster no longer under contract (with their 08 cash):
C Humberto Quintero ($405,000)
C J.R. Towles ($396,000)
3B Ty Wigginton ($4.35 million)
OF Michael Bourn ($396,000)
OF Hunter Pence ($396,000)
The aforementioned P Brandon Backe ($800,000)
P Geoff Geary ($1.125 million)
P Jose Valverde, who lost an arbitration hearing against the Astros at the beginning of last season, and is probably pissed off about that $1.5 million he got ripped from him. So his $4.7 million will go up. By a lot, given that he was 2nd in the Majors in Saves last year.
P Tim Byrdak ($712,500)
P Wandy Rodriguez ($451,000)
P Chris Sampson ($401,000)
P Felipe Paulino ($396,000)
P Wesley Wright ($396,000), a December 07 Rule V draftee.
Now, before you get hasty, the Astros are not going to trade for Jake Peavy: Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee has a full no-trade clause. Kaz Matsui has a limited no-trade clause. The pieces just aren't there. Count on the Astros trying to resign Randy Wolf. GM Ed Wade said today that payroll will increase, but stay below $110 million.
You do the math - you have under $40 million. What do you do?