30 Days for 30 Teams: Houston Astros

BY AXEL BOADA

2013 Record: 51-111 (5th Place AL West, 45 GB)

The Houston Astros posted their worst season ever—for the third consecutive year—in 2013. Houston went 51-111 and finished last in the AL West. It was a season full of this  for the team’s fans.

But this did not come as a surprise, as the Astros had the league’s lowest payroll last year at $26,105,600. That was about $80 million less than the league average. Houston currently has $41 million committed to their roster so far this season, which is already about $65 million less than the rest of the AL West’s average payroll.

Even if the Astros’ payroll increases to $50-60 million as owner Jim Crane said back in October, the team seems headed for another league-worst record. They still have to play the games, though.

Key Acquisitions

P Scott Feldman  (3 yrs/$30M)

OF Dexter Fowler (2 yrs/$11.6M)

P Chad Qualls  (2 yrs/$5.95M)

The Astros’ premier signing so far this offseason has been Feldman, which pretty much sums up the current state of the team. Feldman did prove to be serviceable for the Texas Rangers, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career. His best season came in 2009 when he went 17-8 en route to being named the Rangers’ Pitcher of the Year, but has gone 27-35 since then. Houston hopes he returns to his Rangers form a decade into his career.

Fowler joins Houston via trade after his first six seasons with the Colorado Rockies. He is a player who neither does anything exceptionally well nor exceptionally bad. However, Fowler played arguably his second best season last year—he hit 263/.369/.407 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases. That stat line should be enough to moderately excite Astros fans.

Qualls makes his return to Houston after stints with seven other clubs. The team was a postseason stalwart during his first run. What are the chances Qualls’ return results in some vintage Astros magic?

Key Losses

None. Every player is expendable when a team wins just 51 games.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Nolan Ryan. Hey, who said it had to be a current player? Ryan returns to the Astros as Executive Advisor. Major League Baseball’s all-time strikeouts leader served the last 5 years as Rangers president and CEO, helping the team become one of the league’s most successful franchises. Not only did Texas win consecutive AL pennants in 2010 and 2011, fan attendance exceeded 3 million overall each of the last two seasons. Houston, on the other hand, has ranked in the bottom-five in league attendance the last couple years reeling in about 3.2 million overall. Expect Ryan’s name alone to bring people to Minute Maid Park.

Projected Opening Day Lineup

astros opening day

The present seems bleak for the Astros but with all the money they are saving and prospects they are accumulating, they are poised to become one of the league’s best teams in the future. Until then, expect another 100-loss season and last place AL West finish.

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