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Should the Astros TRADE Bregman?

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Over the past month, Astros fans have seemed to be on an interesting journey. I think there have been about three groups of fans:

  1. Fans that expect that the Astros will spend whatever amount of money they want the franchise to spend even if it means they outspending the Mets- this is only minor hyperbole.

  2. Fans that have decided that now is the time to pull the plug and make major changes even if it means that 2024 and 2025 take a major step backwards in winning.

  3. Fans that have accepted that the Astros have major challenges in the next year and that difficult choices need to be made right now and for the next 18 months- this is the group I think I am in.

It would almost help if we developed labels for these groups and if folks could just use that label before they gave their hot Astros takes.


To be honest, I am growing extremely tired of group one. I dislike the "they are rich" or "that is their problem" response to questions about group one hot takes about signing players the team has no realistic possibility of signing as shown on this site repeatedly.


I am also beginning to tire with group two hot takes that the Astros should dump multiple All-Star level players as if rebuilding this team will be easy. It won't.


Here is probably the simplest filter for figuring out what group you are in.


Answer what should the Astros do with Alex Bregman right now?

1. Re-sign him at whatever he wants

2. Trade him and others NOW and start the rebuild

3. Carefully manage EVERY move they make financially to be in a position to resign him after the season. Don't do ANYTHING with Bregman right now until it's clear how the 2024 season will go.


I am going to go through all three sides of this discussion and then we can better understand the challenges that the Astros front office is facing with Bregman, Altuve, Valdez, and Tucker- all of whom are part of the core of this team and become Free Agents after the 2024 season or after the 2025 season.


This is a breakdown of the options for what the Astros should do with Alex Bregman right now including if they should trade him. Then we analyze why each option is right and why each option is wrong.


Re-Sign Bregman at All Costs


For this perspective I am basically going to say this group would say the same for Altuve, Bregman, Valdez, and Tucker. Resign them all.


Why They are Right


This is the fun position to take. We keep the band together. All four of these guys are All-Star level players. They aren't considered old except for Altuve (see chart of players and their age as they hit free agency.)

You don't let these types of players walk. Jim Crane said he would spend money when the time was right. He can't be cheap now.


The projected WAR in 2024 for these four players is 17.5! That is 38% of the TEAM WAR. They will all just be more expensive as free agents. We can't let any of these guys go! Extend them NOW!


Why They are Wrong


If you want the details here, check out the "Astros 2024-2025 Payroll Projection" article. Folks, the Astros ARE NOT going to run a $300M+ payroll in 2025 that this line of sign them all logic WILL lead to. Demanding the franchise spend to a level they have never even approached before means you think they should lose money. You can think that, but the owner won't.


Jim Crane IS NOT being cheap if he does not re-sign all four of these players. He and his front office will be making difficult choices. In 2023, there were 127 MLB CONTRACTS that were $11.5M or more AAV. On average, an MLB team would have had 4. The Astros had 10, but Astros fans call Crane cheap. Crane has run a payroll that has consistently been in the top 10 in the MLB for most of the past five years. The Astros current projected CBT payroll is fifth in the MLB according to Spotrac.com. Depending on whose numbers you use the Astros CBT in 2024 is between $232-238M vs. CBT1 of $237M.


They WILL NOT re-sign all four of Altuve, Bregman, Tucker, and Valdez. Thinking they will sets you up for disappointment.


Trade Bregman


This group is the polar opposite of the first group. They look at the financial situation and are ready to tear the team down. They look at Bregman as just the first to be traded.


Why They are Right


I understand this group. They are essentially saying we allowed Springer, Cole, and Correa to leave and got nothing but draft picks for it. THIS time let's get SOMETHING we can build with. We built this once and we can do it again. Philosophically, I can understand this view.


This perspective thinks the Astros would get a haul of great prospects from the right team. Trading Bregman now, before he turns 30 and before the season they would lose him to free agency, is the best time to trade him.

If the Astros are willing to trade Bregman, they should just tear it down and trade Tucker and Valdez now too. That would be a total of 105 trade value per baseballtradevalues.com. This could go a long way to refilling the lowly rated farm system and the holes they would create. IF the team went into full sell mode here is what trades could look like.

Those may be a lot of players you don't know but they are generally younger players with upside that fill the Astros near term positional needs. The Astros would trade THREE players and get eight roster contributors that MAY develop into starters and more.


Say we JUST want to trade Bregman of the big trade chips. Here are deals that are somewhat interesting to me.

Those deals might not hurt the Astros too much.


Why They are Wrong


This assumes winning is easy. It is NOT. The 2024 Astros are projected to have the second or third highest WAR this year. They have been to SEVEN ALCS in a row. You don't CHOOSE

to tear down a champion while they are near the peak. Yes, it sucks to only get draft pick compensation when our players leave for free agency, but trading three All-Stars for eight lottery tickets is NOT what teams who have been to seven straight LCS series do.


Also, let's review who the Astros received in the recent draft pick compensation picks.


- Cole led to Alex Santos II in the 2020 draft. The 72nd pick in the draft is toiling some in upper A ball.

- Springer led to Chayce McDermott in the 2021 draft. The 117th pick was traded as part of the Mancini trade. He currently is rated as the tenth best prospect in the Orioles organization.

- Correa led to Andrew Taylor in the 2022 draft. The 80th pick in the draft is currently the 23rd prospect in the Astros organization.


Yes, that is not close to fair compensation for those three IF they had been dumped ahead of their last years. However, would the Astros have made the 2019 World Series without Cole? Would they have made it to the 2020 ALCS without Springer? Would they have made it to the 2021 World Series without Correa? The Astros were in championship mode and DID NOT want to find out.

Alex Bregman projects to be the fourth highest WAR third baseman in the MLB per fangraphs.com. Again, he is ranked as the FOURTH BEST third baseman. You are NOT going to replace that 4.5 WAR in 2024. We are spoiled as Astros fans in that we have let players go and very good replacements were ready because our GMs generally did not trade away the wrong guys. The well of good replacement parts is now pretty empty.


The Astros ARE STILL in championship mode; and therefore, they should not dump any of their critical parts now.


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Manage EVERY move to be in a position to re-sign Bregman after the season


If the Astros don't extend Bregman now and don't trade him now, what are they supposed to do? They would do as they did with the other key players on this team for the past five years. Don't do ANYTHING with Bregman right now until it's clear how the 2024 season will go. If in strong contention let it ride and see where the season goes. Follow the plan advocated here in "Improving the 2024 Astros- The Comprehensive Plan" where the team makes strategic trades now to shore up the weaker areas of the team without putting the payroll into an unsustainable territory.


Why They are Right


People in this group simply can point to the results of this dynastic run to show how it COULD work.


IF you buy into this path, you see the 2024 Astros as a contender for a championship. I think if the team makes a few key moves which may involve some of the vets on the team but not the core, that the 2024 Astros could be projected to be better than the 2023 Astros. This does not guarantee the Astros another ALCS. Other teams in the AL may improve even more than the Astros. IF the Astros are out of contention in July it may be time to go into full sell mode.


I know fans feel the need to DO SOMETHING NOW. The folks in this group would urge you to be patient. The best moves for the Astros, who ARE not going to compete at the top of the free agent market, may come later in the offseason.


Why They are Wrong


Those that think doing nothing now is an option are ignoring the warning signs. Even if they created the payroll space Bregman STILL may not return to the Astros. Assuming he is going to return because we want him to is foolish.


The issue may be what the POTENTIAL is to extend any of these four great players. Potential here is a combination of desire on both sides to do a deal and the financial viability (or signability) of a deal.

The data in the table above are a numerical way to show my opinion. I think it is FAR more likely that the team extends Altuve than any of the other three. I think it is significantly less likely that a Tucker deal gets done (mainly due to the years) than the other three.


Bregman is one of the two wildcards for me. While I think the likelihood of an extension is low, I think the desire for one is high from both sides. But this could be wrong. Bregman may want to leave for a new challenge no matter what happens in 2024.


Conclusion


We are left with the question if Bregman does leave was it worth it to keep him to make a championship run in 2004. Today, I would say given where the Astros rank in projected WAR in comparison with the rest of the league, it would be worth it to keep Bregman and go for the ring even if the team knew he was almost certain to leave after the season.


This might change as the off-season progresses. We will monitor the situation here.


Now that you have hear all sides, what do you think? Should the Astros trade Alex Bregman? Please comment here.


820 views2 comments

2 Comments


I enjoyed your exercise. I am in a slightly different mindset today. I would be in the minor moves to improve and try to re-sign Breggy camp BUT I would trade Framber. Why? Although Framber has been outstanding for the most part, his fragile mental state bothers me with respect to playoff performance. I think we should be able to garner some very good prospects and maybe a very good back up catcher or some combination for him. Yes, we need SPs but deal with that separately.

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LarryTheGM
LarryTheGM
Nov 25, 2023
Replying to

This is interesting. I thought about doing the exercise for Valdez and Tucker

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