Might as well start here given the luxury tax payroll situation. Technically, pretty much every player on the roster is a salary dump candidate, but something tells me the Astros won’t move Verlander or Bregman or Jose Altuve to free up payroll. As Yankees GM Brian Cashman likes to say, no player is untouchable, but some are more touchable than others.
Looking over the club’s roster, three Astros players stand out as potential salary dump candidates:
SS Carlos Correa: $7.4 million projected salary in 2020 (via MLB Trade Rumors)
RHP Brad Peacock: $4.6 million projected salary in 2020 (via MLB Trade Rumors)
OF Josh Reddick: $13 million salary in 2020
I think a Correa trade is very unlikely, but the rumors have popped up, and I would never completely rule out a deal. The Astros can slide Bregman over to shortstop, his natural position, and install Abraham Toro at third base, or perhaps move Yuli Gurriel back to the hot corner and plug Yordan Alvarez in at first base. It could work. I don’t expect it to happen, but it could work.
The Astros have Kyle Tucker, a highly regarded young player, available to step into the lineup to replace Reddick. Finding another outfielder is not the obstacle here though. Reddick is owed a good deal of money this coming season and he’s mustered only a 93 OPS+ the last two years. Why trade for Reddick when you could sign, say, Yasiel Puig and get similar or better production?
To unload Reddick, the Astros may have to attached a sweetener. The Diamondbacks gave the Braves righty Touki Toussaint to take on Bronson Arroyo’s contract a few years ago. The Padres took on Chase Headley’s salary to get Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees two years ago. The Mets are open to giving up Dominic Smith to dump Jed Lowrie’s salary. It’s been done before.
Houston is deep in pitching prospects — “As always, this system is loaded with homegrown pitching, some of which has come out of nowhere during the last 12 months,” wrote FanGraphs in their recent farm system analysis — and parting with an arm(s) to clear Reddick’s salary and open a lineup spot for Tucker is something the Astros have reportedly investigated this winter.
The Orioles stand out as a potential trade partner for Reddick. GM Mike Elias worked under Luhnow with the Astros and absorbing the final year of a bad contract to add young pitching to the system seems worthwhile for a rebuilding team. Of course, Baltimore doesn’t seem inclined to spend much money this year. Trading Reddick, even with a sweetener, will be easier said than done.
As for Peacock, he’s been a solid and versatile depth arm the last few seasons, but committing close to $5 million to a guy who may only be a long or middle reliever could be tough to swallow for a team on a self-imposed budget. Swapping Peacock for a prospect and replacing him internally (Bryan Abreu?) seems like the easiest way to get payroll under the $248 million threshold.