*Jim Crane says he's willing to raise payroll if the opportunity presents itself, and we have zero reason to think that he won't do exactly that. Crane:
I'd say if the right situation came along - certainly we're not going over the [luxury-tax threshold] - but we could move closer to that. We were pretty high up in the food chain last year. A lot of teams realize the penalty is pretty severe if you go over. We'll stay within the strike zone.
Baseball lingo! So a couple of things to note here: the Astros' payroll in 2018 was about $182m. The luxury tax threshold will be about $206m. As it stands right this very minute, Houston is looking at a $137m payroll for 2019. That's subtracting Keuchel, Marwin, and McCann's salaries. This is the last year of Altuve's professional life that he'll make less than $10m, and that $137m figure from B-Ref accounts for Gerrit Cole's projected $13.1m arbitration salary.
Will the Astros add $45-65m in salaries this year? I could certainly spend Crane's money all day. Check back...at some point this offseason and find out!
*Chandler Rome has a good profile of Kyle Tucker, coming off a somewhat-disappointing MLB debut season. Tucker:
Last year was really cool. I tried - obviously, I wasn't going out there not trying - but I was a little in awe of all the stuff. This year, I don't care who I'm going to play against. I'm going to go out there and do well...I'm just going into this next season trying to do a lot of damage.
Good read, here.
*Collin McHugh taught a class at Emory University.
*Jon Heyman says the Astros are still in on Nelson Cruz, but now have competition with Minnesota and Tampa.
*Astros' new director of research and development Ehsan Bokhari was part of an analytics panel at the Winter Meetings.
*Nate Eovaldi told Evan Drellich that he thought real hard about coming to Houston.
*Former Astros Great Rio Ruiz was claimed off waivers by Former Astros Great Mike Elias' Orioles.
*Of the 11 games currently scheduled for Sunday Night Baseball, here is the breakdown by team:
-New York: 5
-Los Angeles: 4
-St. Louis: 1
*Tom Verducci on why Dallas Keuchel isn't in higher demand.
*Mike Elias, on bringing Sig and his Wiffle Bat with him to Baltimore:
We were brought here primarily for scouting and player development purposes. I think we have the best track record - among the best track records in the industry - in this regard over certainly, the last several years, but even going over a 12-year, 14-year period dating back to St. Louis.
*There were some reports yesterday that the Mets, Yankees, and Marlins could be involved in a three-way trade that would send Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees, J.T. Realmuto to the Mets, and a haul of prospects to the Marlins. The Marlins downplayed that, but all indications are that the Marlins are looking to trade Realmuto. Realmuto is one known target of the Mets and two other, as-yet-unknown, teams.
*The Hardball Times: The physics of getting hit by a pitch.
*The Guardian: The Murder that Shook Iceland.
*A Musical Selection: