Increased payroll may force the Astros to make a trade: How the Reds could benefit

Will the Houston Astros enter the trade market in an effort to reduce spending? If so, the Cincinnati Reds could be huge benefactors.
Texas Rangers pitcher Framber Valdez
Texas Rangers pitcher Framber Valdez / Bob Levey/GettyImages

If there's one area the Cincinnati Reds should still be focused on this offseason, it's the starting rotation. While some fans would argue it's actually the bullpen, the two go hand-in-hand.

The Reds' starters struggled to go deep into games last season. They also struggled to stay healthy. Down the stretch, manager David Bell was forced to employ the services of rookie pitchers Brandon Williamson and Andrew Abbott. While both gave admirable efforts, those two were gassed in September.

Shane Bieber and Dylan Cease have emerged as potential trade candidates this offseason, however, is there an outside-the-box trade target that Cincinnati should zero in on?

Will the Astros make a trade to reduce payroll?

The Houston Astros are in an interesting spot this offseason. Though it's unlikely that the Astros are going to blow it up and start from scratch, Houston does have some intriguing decisions to make this winter.

Are the 'Stros going to re-up Jose Altuve? Alex Bregman will be a free agent after the 2024 season, but no contract talks appear to be on the horizon. What does the future hold for outfielder Kyle Tucker?

The Astros may have more questions than answers, and Ken Rosenthal brought up an interesting nugget in his latest column for The Athletic. According to one agent involved in free agent discussions with the Astros, money is an issue.

Rosenthal mentioned that under owner Jim Crane, the Astros have only exceeded the luxury tax threshold once. The Astros' estimated 2024 payroll is just above $237 million luxury tax threshold.

The Reds could benefit if the Astros look to reduce spending in 2024.

Might that push Houston to deal one of their top players in an effort to reduce salary? If so, the Cincinnati Reds could benefit. Could Framber Valdez, who still has two years of team control remaining, be on the trade block? Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that five teams have checked in on Houston's left-hander.

Valdez, according to MLB Trade Rumors, is scheduled to make about $12 million in 2024. The lefty will then receive another raise heading into 2025. The Astros have already parted company with players like Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander (who was later traded back to Houston), and George Springer. Could Valdez be next?

Valdez would be a huge upgrade to the Reds starting rotation. Last season the southpaw was 12-11 with a 3.45 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 198 innings of work. Over the past three seasons, Valdez has been a workhorse. The 30-year-old has logged an average of 178 innings and posted a 3.13 ERA.

Nothing has been set in motion, but with Bregman, Altuve, Verlander, Lance McCullers, and Yordan Alvarez all with an average annual value (AAV) over $10 million next season, Houston may be forced to trade one of the best players. Hopefully the Reds are one of those five teams who've kicked the tires on a trade for Valdez.