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Astros owner Jim Crane said last week the team would be in position to increase its payroll next year, and on Tuesday he gave his first indication just how much money could be spent on players.
Crane said the Astros’ payroll, which was at about $13 million to end the season, could be between $50-60 million next year regardless whether the club is able to settle its disagreement with Comcast. The Astros contend Comcast/NBC improperly filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition in an attempt to prevent it from terminating the media rights agreement between the team and Houston Regional Sports Network.
The Astros on Monday filed a motion to dismiss an involuntary Chapter 11 filed by four Comcast affiliates against Houston Regional Sports Network, the parent company of Comcast SportsNet Houston.
“If this gets resolved, we could go a little bit deeper,” Crane said.
The Astros are encouraged by some of the young talent that hit Houston last season and are even more enthused about the prospects that are now sitting at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues and could make an impact next year. Still, the Astros will be in the market this winter for a closer, an outfielder with some pop and a veteran starting pitcher.
That means the Astros could have about $30 million to spread among three or four players, but don’t expect general manager Jeff Luhnow to make a run at any of the higher-end free agents just yet.
“I would say [the payroll] could go to $50-60 [million] very quickly, and if this gets resolved it could go higher,” Crane said. “We’re not going to make a move unless it fits into the plan, and we’re not going to rush the plan. Jeff’s got a very systematic formula and we do have some good players coming up. You add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we’ve got. We’re deep in pitching.”