The Astros likely won’t sign JT Realmuto, and it has nothing to do with his asking price.
Houston is paying the consequences for their 2017 scandal, in which they used illegal technology to steal signs en route to the World Series, and eventually the playoffs the next season. It just took awhile for most fans to see the ramifications play out.
The Astros could use a catcher, and there’s a good one available on the market. JT Realmuto is the best backstop in the game right now — that much is inarguable. Yet, Houston is out on Realmuto is part due to the fact that they’d rather not lose any more draft capital.
Per Ken Rosenthal, the Astros don’t want to abandon the MLB Draft altogether
Per Rosenthal (paywall), “The Astros face a double whammy because of the penalties they received for stealing signs illegally in 2017 and ’18, and for exceeding the luxury-tax threshold last season. The first offense cost them their first- and second-round picks in both ’20 and ’21.”
The article itself is exceptionally detailed, and lays out that Houston was also docked a fourth and seventh rounder. Yet, should they sign a free agent attached to a qualifying offer, that penalty would turn into a fifth-rounder in 2021 and a second-rounder in 2022. Ouch.
The MLB Draft is vital for any scouting department, especially a team like Houston which is trying to rebuild both their roster and reputation on the fly. The Astros built a World Series contender from within in the mid-2010’s, but it’ll be tough to do so again with the penalties MLB imposed upon them.
Signing Realmuto is tempting, but given the qualifying offer attached to him, Houston would have to pay up to his high price tag and lose high draft picks.
Good luck with that, Houston.