December 20, 2012
How to Analyze the Astros' Spending
While Major League Baseball operates without a salary floor, it's not like there are no restrictions on the frugal. The baseline for fielding a major-league team is found right there in the rule book.
4.17 A game shall be forfeited to the opposing team when a team is unable or refuses to place nine players on the field.
Combine that with the minimum salary set forth in the latest collective bargaining agreement, and you're on the road to a minimum payroll around $12 million when you consider that those nine players might get tired without a full roster.
As much grief as the Marlins have taken for their self-destruction this offseason in gutting payroll, the Astros were in an even stingier situation. They made their two major-league free agent signings of the offseason this week, bringing in DH Carlos Pena for a reported base salary of $2.9 million and Jose Veras for a reported $1.85 million.
They certainly didn't have to. They had enough bodies to get 650 plate appearances out of the DH spot. They had enough arms to fill 500 relief innings. They weren't very good bodies. They weren't very good arms. But they were never going to be reported to Commissioner Selig for any Rule 4.17 violations.
For instance, here's a lineup of people still on the team who could have been the Astros' first American League 25.