Let's set the stage a little bit. In a pair of tweets from Jon Morosi (who is a noted Michigander, so when he talks about the Tigers, I listen) he says that the Astros are interested in acquiring both Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. Wilson would fill the need for a lefty reliever and Verlander would provide a Proven Veteran front-of-the-line starter (more on that in a minute) for the next few years. But he's expensive. Here's his contract:
2020: Option for $22m vests if Verlander finishes in the 2019 AL Cy Young voting.
So if we eyeball the math on the rest of his salary for 2017...carry the one...let's say he's owed $13m at the time the Astros trade for him and Wilson. So that means Verlander would be owed $69m guaranteed (wink), and we won't concern ourselves with the vesting option for 2020.
$69m for a 34-year old starting pitcher currently going through the worst season of his career is steep. If we assume - and we're doing a lot of assuming in this post - the Tigers kick in half of Verlander's salary, the Astros would be on the hook for approximately $35m over the next two-and-a-half seasons. Can the Astros afford that?
To divide it evenly, it would mean the Astros adding $14m in payroll for this season and the next two seasons, as well. Yes, the Astros can afford that. Season-by-season:
Potential money cleared:
Carlos Beltran ($16m)
Luke Gregerson ($6.25m)
Nori Aoki ($5.5m)
I can't imagine Carlos Beltran getting another deal, much less one at $16m. Luke Gregerson is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Astros *could* let him walk. Depending on what happens with Derek Fisher in the next ten days, Nori Aoki is a non-tender candidate for 2018. $6-7m is a decent chunk of change for a 4th/5th OF.
George Springer is looking to get PAID in his 3rd-year of arbitration, and will definitely command more than the $3.9m he's getting this year). McCullers will be in his first year of arbitration, so he'll get a substantial increase over his league minimum salary. Same argument for Ken Giles. Keuchel's salary may not increase too much over his $9.15m this year in his final season of arbitration given that he'll end up missing approximately two months of the season. Eyeballing arbitration figures, I'm going to assume Springer gets in the $8-10m range for 2018, McCullers and Giles in the $4-5m range, and Keuchel in the $10-11m range. That would bring an increase of $15m to the payroll. Subtracting that number from the above money cleared, that's a difference of about $13m. Leaving the Astros $1m short of Verlander's contract. A doable difference.
Potential money cleared:
Brian McCann ($11.5m)
Charlie Morton ($7m)
Tony Sipp ($6m)
Jon Singleton ($2m)
None of the above players figure into the 2019 team.
Correa and Devenski will be arbitration-eligible for the first time, so they will command a decent payroll addition. Since arbitration is *supposed* to be a year-by-year valuation of a player and not a cumulative effort (i.e., it would be, uh, abnormal if, say, Alex Bregman was eligible for arbitration in 2020, had a crap 2019, but the panel said, "Your 2018 season was really good, so despite missing 159 games with an ear infection, we're going to award you $Eleventy Gajillion") I'm not going to speculate on 2nd- and 3rd-year arbitration players' salaries.
Other limitations of this exercise also involve a potential long-term deal for Altuve (upon whom the Astros can exercise a $6m and $6.5m - pause to shake your head until it falls off your damn shoulders - team option in 2018 and 2019, respectively), Springer, or Keuchel.
What this exercise *doesn't* do is evaluate whether Verlander is worth it. It also doesn't evaluate whether Verlander - a 10 & 5 guy - would waive his no-trade clause to join the Astros. But if Mr. Upton, who is clearly in the twilight of his career - wants a shot at his first World Series ring, then he'll need to approve a trade somewhere as Detroit looks to rebuild. And the Astros could handle his salary. The more salary the Astros take on, the less they have to pay in prospects.