Free Agents Part 2- Seven Astros EXTERNAL Free Agent Scenarios

Updated: Nov 16

What are the best options for the Astros with EXTERNAL Free Agent options?


As we showed in the Off-season Outline, the exclusive negotiating period ended Thursday at 4PM CST. In Part 1, we explored the overall team needs and whether the internal options addressed them. Open Part one and keep it beside you as you work through this content.


Here is a summary of those conclusions.

  1. The Astros should target improving Catcher, First Base, and the Outfield (CF or LF) and possibly add a LHRP

  2. Gurriel projects to drop WAR the more he plays in place of other INTERNAL 1B Options

  3. Brantley adds about 0.1 WAR to the batting WAR if re-signed

  4. Re-signing Verlander adds about 1.4 WAR to the projection of the pitching

As we have discussed in the Payroll and CBT articles:

- Bringing these three back takes the CBT payroll from $169M to $222M.

- The 2023 CBT is $233M

- The Astros are likely to target the 2023 payroll at $238M to $248M IF they bring back JV

- If the Astros do NOT bring back JV they would probably target $230-232M CBT.


Therefore with JV at $40M AAV, the Astros free agent budget is around $34M - or a $243M target

243 - 169 - 40 = 34

Brining back Brantley and Gurriel could cost $16M to $22M and I would not do it.


Without JV, the Astros free agent budget is around $62M - or a $231M Target

231 - 169 = 62


Here is MY table of Possible FA Targets that address this team's weaknesses. These players also meet certain factors (except Brantley and Gurriel).

- Max Age 33

- Good WAR Contribution >1.5 (except for the former Astros) and >= 0.4 for the RP

Let's Define Seven Scenarios for How this Team could Spend the budget and access the relative impact. In the spirit of the Christmas season how can we spend Jim Crane's money? For all of you who have wanted me to spend - Hold my beer.


You may ask WHY are there seven scenarios? Honestly, with the complete flux of the Astros organization I don't know

- If they will value returning players more

- How much they would value the draft picks they could lose

- How much they are truly willing to spend

This leads to more scenarios to cover for what I don't know.

Don't worry if the Table is too small we are going to talk through each of these options. As you can tell each plan has a catchy title.


Scenario 1- No Free Agents with Optimized Playing Time- Baseline

Description- This one is boring. NO FA are signed. No players come back. They go to the season with what they got.

Positive- it's cheap, let the kids play, Hensley, Yainer Diaz, McCormick, and Myers all get bigger roles

Negative- it's cheap and they might not even win the division

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 30.9/ 16.3/ 47.2

CBT /Tax- $169M/ $0M

$/ WAR Improvement- N/A

Penalties- None

Rating- Zero- Terrible Idea

Likelihood- Zero- This will not happen


Scenario 2- The Boys Are Back In Town

Description- We LOVE them we MUST Keep them. Well not Mancini, Vazquez, A. Diaz, or Smith, but you know what I mean. Gurriel, Brantley, Verlander, and Montero are BACK!

Positive- it's familiar

Negative- it's not a good plan. The bats are WORSE than letting the kids play, spending 2/3 of your FA budget on ONE player (JV) seems....not smart. This is the least bang for the buck.

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 30.3/ 18.2/ 48.5/ +1.3

CBT /Tax- $230M/ $0M- under target

$/ WAR Improvement- $46.9

Penalties- None

Rating- One- It's better than nothing- maybe

Likelihood- Six- As bad as this plan is, I think many in the fan base would applaud and Dusty would love not having to learn new players. Yes, the second to worse plan may be the most likely.

Note- The Astros signed Montero today. They might be following THIS plan. Fans are as predicted fired up, See Clint's analysis of this move here.


Scenario 3- Offensive Money Whip

Description- We are going all in to beat you down with our bats. We get the one of the best at all of the positions we want- Contreras at C, Rizzo at 1B, Nimmo in the OF, and heck let's get a LHRP (Rogers) because we still got the money.

Positive- This plan illustrates that this team can do a ton IF you don't pay JV $40M, this plan is actually the best at WAR value (best improvement for the money)

Negative- Roster management will be a challenge. You probably trade or release Maldy to have Contreras as primary catcher, the draft pick penalties, if you need to make a move midseason you will bust CBT to do it, the Tucker extension may be a challenge in 2024, No Verlander

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 35.3/ 17/ 52.3/ +5.1

CBT /Tax- $229M/ $0M- under target

$/ WAR Improvement- $11.8

Penalties- Each of the stud we sign costs us a draft pick, we lose out 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks AND $1.5M in international signing money

Rating- Two- it's fun to think of this lineup

  1. Altuve

  2. Nimmo

  3. Alvarez

  4. Bregman

  5. Tucker

  6. Contreras

  7. Rizzo

  8. McCormick

  9. Pena

Likelihood-One- This will not happen. The draft pick and international signing pool impact make this DOA


Scenario 4- Just Win Baby

Description- OK that was fun but let's get to what may be more realistic options. For the key need positions

C- Keep Maldy and get Diaz and Lee ready

1B- Sign Bell- best non-QO WAR projection, a Texas boy, 30, Switch hitter

OF- Sign Benintendi- best non-QO WAR projection, 28, LHH

SP- keep Verlander

RP- roll with what you got- move a SP to RP

Positive- This plan does almost everything and is politically doable. The small CBT hit is worth it. There are no draft pick penalties.

Negative- This is NOT an efficient plan. It is second worst to scenario 2. This seems like it should deliver more WAR than it projects.

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 32/ 17.7/ 49.7/ +2.5

CBT /Tax- $236M/ $0.6M

$/ WAR Improvement- $26.8

Penalties- None

Rating- Six- I like this plan. I wish it was better WAR.

Likelihood- Seven? - if they open the checkbook, it could look like this. Does not having a GM make this scenario more difficult and unlikely?


Scenario 5- Let OF Play Out

Description- This option is similar to scenario 4, but leaves the OF alone and focuses more on catcher and RP

C- Bring back Vazquez (PLEASE) and get Diaz and Lee ready, say good bye to Maldonado

1B- Sign Bell- best non-QO WAR projection, a Texas boy, 30, Switch hitter

OF- Let Alvarez play more in LF and have McCormick and Myers cover CF and non-Alvarez days in LF

SP- keep Verlander

RP- sign Rogers- LHRP high leverage arm

Positive- This plan does almost everything even better, The small CBT hit is worth it. There are no draft pick penalties. Best efficiency of the realistic plans. Best pitching impact for a reasonable CBT.

Negative- CAN Crane and Dusty let go of Maldy? Probably an easier sell with Contreras than Vazquez. One could keep Maldonado but Vazquez would have to start 65% of the time.

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 32.4/ 18.4/ 50.8/ +3.6

CBT /Tax- $237M/ $0.8M

$/ WAR Improvement- $18.9

Penalties- None

Rating- Eight- I think this is my favorite plan. It is fun to think of THIS lineup

  1. Altuve

  2. Pena

  3. Alvarez

  4. Bregman

  5. Tucker

  6. Vazquez

  7. Bell

  8. McCormick

  9. Myers

Likelihood- Six? - if they open the checkbook, it could look like this. Will Houston let Maldy go? Does not having a GM make this scenario more difficult and unlikely?


Scenario 6- Put Up or Shut Up (No Excuses)

Description- This option is similar to scenario 5, but we kick it up. IF Jim Crane REALLY wants to be aggressive, THIS is his plan.

C- Bring back Vazquez (PLEASE) and get Diaz and Lee ready, say good bye to Maldonado

1B- Sign Bell- best non-QO WAR projection, a Texas boy, 30, Switch hitter

OF- Sign Benintendi- best non-QO WAR projection, 28, LHH

SP- keep Verlander

RP- sign Rogers- LHRP high leverage arm

Positive- This plan does everything and does not lost a draft pick. Managing the 40-man roster to this plan MIGHT be a challenge. The CBT hit is worth it. Efficiency is good. Best pitching impact for a reasonable CBT. This plan wins the World Series. Stays JUST under the CBT2.

Negative- You probably trade some of your mid level prospects to add FIVE players. Is Benintendi REALLY better than the Scenario 5 OF? CAN Crane and Dusty let go of Maldy? Probably an easier sell with Contreras than Vazquez. One could keep Maldonado but Vazquez would have to start 65% of the time.

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 33/ 18.4/ 51.4/ +4.2

CBT /Tax- $252M/ $3.8M

$/ WAR Improvement- $19.8

Penalties- None

Rating- Seven- I am not sure Benintendi is worth it. It is fun to think of THIS lineup

  1. Altuve

  2. Pena

  3. Alvarez

  4. Bregman

  5. Tucker

  6. Bell

  7. Vazquez

  8. McCormick

  9. Benintendi

Likelihood- Five? - I do't think they go THIS far. Crane and the new GM won't want the no excuses pressure. Will Houston let Maldy go? Does not having a GM make this scenario more difficult and unlikely?


Scenario 7- Sign EVERYBODY

Description- We started by signing no one and we end with signing everyone. This is scenario 3 on steroids. OOPS can I even say that? Add Verlander to scenario 3. Get Jim Crane drunk and give him a pen to sign all of these deals. We are going all in to beat you down with our bats AND our pitching. We are winning 120 unless someone gets hurt.

Positive- If money were no object and/or we were the Dodgers, this would be our plan. It actually is more efficient than scenarios 4, 5, and 6.

Negative- Roster management will be a challenge. Trade the good prospects for younger ones. You probably trade or release Maldy to have Contreras as primary catcher, the draft pick penalties, the Tucker extension not happening in 2024, you will be in CBT penalty hell for the foreseeable future

WAR (bat/pitch/ total)- 35.3/ 18.4/ 53.7/ +6.5

CBT /Tax- $269M/ $9.1M

$/ WAR Improvement- $15.4

Penalties- Each of the stud we sign costs us a draft pick, we lose out 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks AND $1.5M in international signing money

Rating- Two- it's fun to think of this lineup

  1. Altuve

  2. Nimmo

  3. Alvarez

  4. Bregman

  5. Tucker

  6. Contreras

  7. Rizzo

  8. McCormick

  9. Pena

Likelihood-One- This will not happen. The draft pick and international signing pool impact make this DOA


So here is the scenario list again with the rating and Likelihood ratings

So tell me what you think. Members can comment below. The next stops on the Off-season plan.


  • We will Document who got the qualifying offer around the league and explain why its important

  • We will document who the Astros Minor League Free Agents are

  • We will prepare you for the Rule 5 draft and discuss the 40-man roster in detail



Data here is from Fangraphs.com, MLB Trade rumors, and the Athletic.


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