Rumors indicate the Astros are trying to land a big bat for 2017, one that will anchor their lineup and help them win the American League West. Detroit slugger (and former MVP) Miguel Cabrera and Toronto All-Star Edwin Encarnacion are two of the big names Jeff Luhnow is said to be pursuing.
Cabrera: Big hitter with big contract
(c) Associated Press
Another name the Astros are said to be after is 40-year-old former Astro Carlos Beltran, which should confound those who have been booing the outfielder since he jilted Houston in 2005 to sign with the New York Mets.
Cabrera comes with a hefty contract which actually explains why he is available at all. Miggy, who is primarily a first baseman, is owed $28 million in 2017, $30 million in 2018 through 2021 and $32 million in 2022 and 2023. He also has a vesting option in 2024 and 2025 if he's able to stay in the Top 10 of MVP voting well into his 40s.
He will be age 34 during next year but his slash line (.316/.393/.563/.956) remains one of the best in the game. The Tigers are looking for payroll relief and are said to be willing to receive less in return if the Astros take his contract without asking for cash to help pay for it.
The problem, besides the age and length of the contract, is that Cabrera is a righty hitter on a roster stacked with righty hitters. He blocks top prospect A.J. Reed (who bats left) unless they are platooned or one is moved to Designated Hitter.
Encarnacion is another righthanded hitter and is a free agent so the Astros just have to outbid everyone else without trading a player. They would likely lose their second-round draft pick as compensation to Toronto. Encarnacion is roughly the same age as Cabrera and is coming off a year where he led the American League in RBIs. His agent says Toronto is still his preferred place to sign so it may just be wishful thinking he goes elsewhere.
Beltran had a "contract year" in 2016, shaking off injuries to bat .295 with 29 homers between the Yankees and Rangers. This, however, came after two declining years as a Yankee which means he probably won't be worth what some team will pay to get him in free agency. Beltran is, however, a switch-hitter which would help the Astros' lineup balance.
Another Yankee, Brian McCann, has been mentioned as a possibility to replace Jason Castro who left in free agency. McCann is a lefty-hitting catcher and DH who could split time with Evan Gattis at both positions. He batted .242 and belted 20 homers last season and is under contract for $17 million per year through 2018 with a team option in 2019. The Astros would, no doubt, have to surrender prospects to secure McCann in trade.
Keep in mind that the Astros usually stay mum on player acquisitions until the deal is done so it would not be expected to hear from them until it is almost a reality.
Meanwhile, congrats are in order for pitcher Dallas Keuchel who won his third straight AL Gold Glove Award for the best fielding performance by a pitcher. When he is on his game, the lefty frequently encourages wormburners back to the mound which increases his number of assists. Keuchel was not charged with an error this past season, although his assists dropped from 53 in 2015 to 27.
This coming week, we should know if Jose Altuve won the American League MVP Award. He has been named a finalist along with Boston's Mookie Betts and Anaheim's Mike Trout who has finished first or second each of the last four seasons.
- Bob Hulsey