Astros face arbitration decisions
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the club plans to tender contracts to their four remaining arbitration-eligible players – pitchers Bud Norris, Wilton Lopez, Wesley Wright and shortstop Jed Lowrie. Lopez, of course, has been subject of trade speculation, but for now he remains with Houston.
The deadline to tender a contract is 10:59 p.m. CT Friday.
Norris, Lopez and Wright are all eligible for arbitration for the first time, and Lowrie is going through the process a second time. Each player will submit a desired salary for 2013, and the Astros will also submit their offer. That serves as the starting point for the negotiations, and both sides typically meet in the middle
If the sides can’t find common ground, they will take their case before an arbitration panel in February that will determine the players’ salary. In this scenario, this is no middle ground. The panel will side with either the player or the team, but negotiations can continue right up to the hearing.
Astros assistant general manager David Stearns is going to be spearheading the team’s arbitration process.
“He has some experience in that area, both from the labor relations side of Major League baseball, as well as the team side,” Luhnow said. “Our cases are nothing too complex at this point. They’re all first-year guys, with the exception of Jed, who’s a second-year guy. We went through preparing for a cast last year. We’re in pretty good shape, and I feel good about we’re going to get all our guys done.”
Here’s a closer look at each player:
– Jed Lowrie made $1.15 million in his first season in Houston in 2012 and was putting up All-Star numbers before a sprained right ankle suffered in mid July put him on the shelf for 52 games. He wound up hitting .244 with a career-high 16 homers and 42 RBIs. Lowrie could as much as double his salary from a year ago.
– Bud Norris had a strange year statistically, going 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts. He had 165 strikeouts in 168 1/3 innings, but went nearly three months without a win while battling various injuries and some inconsistencies. He was 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA at home and 3-12 with a 6.94 ERA on the road. He started strong, but was 0-12 with a 6.17 ERA in 18 starts from May 26-Sept. 20. He finished the season having not allowed a run in his final two starts, 13 1/3 innings.
Norris made $511,000 last season and should see a substantial bump based on his body of work, perhaps in the $2 million range
– Wesley Wright, who made $512,000 last season, is one of the longest-tenured Astros, having pitched parts of five seasons with the club from 2008-12. He made a career-high 77 appearances as lefty specialist last year and went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA, including a 19-game scoreless streak. Lefties have hit just .170 off of him the last two years combined and he’ll remain a key cog in the bullpen.
The Astros got Wright in the Rule 5 Draft in 2007, and he’s had an unusual tenure in Houston. He’s been tried as a starter, had his arm slot temporarily changed and bounced between Triple-A and Houston so many times he could start his own shuttle service. But he appears to have entrenched himself in the bullpen and will be paid accordingly.
— Wilton Lopez, claimed off waivers in 2009 by Ed Wade, has been a workhorse member of the Astros’ bullpen the past three years, going 6-3 with a 2.17 ERA last year in 64 games. He also had a career-high 10 saves after assuming the club’s closer role following the trade of Brett Myers and ineffectiveness of Francisco Cordero. He posted the lowest walks-per-innings ratio among all NL relievers (1.09) last season after setting the franchise record in 2010 by issuing only five walks in 67 innings pitched. He began last season by facing 78 batters without issuing a walk.
Lopez made $515,500 last season and could wind up around $1 million next season based on his workload and track record. That’s if the Astros don’t trade him.