Here's your daily WTF from the rumor mill regarding the Astros.
Via SB Nation Chicago, we get this Danny Knobler tweet from yesterday afternoon, when I was boycotting Twitter because nobody could shut up about OMG121212.
Cubs also shopped Soriano to Astros as a possible DH, but Astros don't have enough money (even with Cubs contributing a lot).
Let's think about this for a second. The SB Nation Chicago post mentions reports that the Cubs were willing to eat approximately $26m of the $36m currently owed Soriano (which Jon Heyman confirmed). If that report is accurate, it means that over the next two years, the Astros would be responsible for $5m per season to get Alfonso Soriano.
Barring some other deal, Jed Lowrie will be the highest-paid Astro in 2013...making around $2m, depending on arbitration. Wesley Wright and Bud Norris are also arbitration-eligible, but aren't exactly going to command Lincecum-style arbitration numbers. Baseball-Reference throws an educated guess at the combined salaries of Lowrie, Norris, and Wright at a combined $5.7m. Baseball-Reference also lists 25 players who will be making league-minimum.
Let's say - for math's sake - that Baseball-Reference is under by a few hundred thousand dollars, and those three will make right at $6m. Let's also just say the Astros aren't going to make any moves that would add players at more than $1m/year (since that's been their trend lately). The payroll would break down as such:
Three Arb-Eligibles: $6m
Philip Humber: $800K
21 players at League Minimum ($480K each): $10,080,000
Total payroll: $16,880,000
Even if the Astros get a hair in their pee-hole and sign Lance Berkman to a contract in the $5m range, that puts TOTAL PAYROLL at around $22m. Also, keep in mind that, if they don't sign Soriano or Berkman, the highest-paid player for the Astros in 2013 would be...the Pirates, who are receiving $5m of Wandy's 2013 salary.
Now, I dislike Alfonso Soriano as much as the next guy, but over the past three seasons, he posted an .801 OPS (113 OPS+), averaging 557 PAs in each season. The 2012 Astros didn't have anybody crack .800 in OPS. The closest to it was Matt Dominguez, who had a .787 OPS (111 OPS+), but did in 113 PAs.
I'm not saying that Soriano is the answer. If I'm hoping for things, first and foremost I'm hoping the report just isn't true. Should the report be true, I'm hoping that the Astros said they didn't have enough money to add Soriano because he's just not the type of player they're looking for, and felt like lying about it.
There are a few ways that I can see the Astros not having enough money for a $30m payroll:
1. The Astros are planning on tens of people in the stands every night in 2013.
2. They're not optimistic about CSN Houston reaching a deal with cable providers that people, you know, watch. On November 30, David Barron said 40% of the viewing area could get CSN Houston.If the new network doesn't make a deal with DirecTV, Dish Network, or AT&T Uverse, might that mean that the Astros would only get 40% of the $80m the Astros were to receive from CSN Houston (which would be $32m)?
3. I realize that Opening Day payroll is not the last line of expenses for a franchise's operations. The last-linked article in Item 2, the Astros are apparently going to invest $20m in the franchise next season. But we aren't taking into account any revenue-sharing.
There are a ton - LITERALLY 2000 POUNDS WORTH - of factors that we aren't considering. But given that payroll has fallen from $102m on Opening Day 2009, the Astros are either in financial trouble, or are unbending in their commitment to keep punting for field position until their prospects are ready.