Signing outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has never been impossible for the Astros. It’s always been speculated — more than once in the last day — but it also has always been unlikely. Let’s break it down: • The team highly values the lottery draft pick it would have to surrender to sign any player who received a qualifying offer, which Choo did. Receiving the post-first-round pick from the Orioles in the Bud Norris trade was a virtual must to get the deal done. They don’t want to give it up for a player whom they would also have to overpay. If the price tag for the free agent is appealing, then parting with the pick becomes acceptable — but what’s the likelihood that one team isn’t willing to overpay Choo? Are the Astros in a position where overpaying at this point makes sense? The answer to both questions: probably not. • Astros owner Jim Crane has said the team has about $30 million in 2014 payroll to add. Between Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler and Chad Qualls, roughly $20 million is accounted for. Now, $30 million isn’t a set figure, there’s some flexibility there. But according to FOX Sports, Choo wants a seven-year deal, with the believed front-runners, the Rangers, willing to go five years as of Thursday. Even if Choo accepted a five-year deal worth $20 million annually, that’s a huge undertaking for the Astros compared to their stated expectations for this winter. They still want another reliever and a first baseman. • Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, has already gotten a contract worth over $150 million for another outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury. That’s a benchmark that teams are going to be working against. Boras said at the winter meetings he’s met with the Astros, but he meets with almost every team. He also said, as a generality, that “budgets are a human design rather than a physical barrier.” Yet, the Astros have the closest thing to a physical barrier you’ll find… • The Astros’ TV situation doesn’t seem close to a resolution now that the Rockets have taken over negotiations. Here’s what owner Jim Crane told the Chronicle in November on the team’s spending capacity: “I think we’ve talked in the $30 million range. Anything more than that, we’d have to see where this TV deal falls, because we’re not going to spend money we don’t have. But if that comes in, we could easily move it up. The way we spend it, we’ll have to stay in sequence with the way we’re building up the team. We just don’t want to spend money to be spending money. We want to make sure that fits into our formula. Not only for next year, but the next year. I doubt if it you’ll see any real long-term deals here, because we have so much coming through system.” That last sentence is particularly notable. General manager Jeff Luhnow publicly left the door open to a big acquisition in November, but simultaneously hinted that the timing is important and might not be right yet.
Astros signing Shin-Soo Choo isn’t impossible, but unlikely
Houston Chronicle | Dec 14