Astros avoid arbitration with Aoki, tender deals to 7

Astros avoid arbitration with Aoki, tender deals to 7

HOUSTON -- As expected, all seven of the Astros' arbitration-eligible players were tendered contracts on Friday, which was the deadline for teams to offer contracts to those players.

The seven players are pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Will Harris, Mike Fiers and Collin McHugh, utility player Marwin Gonzalez and outfielders George Springer and Jake Marisnick. On Wednesday, the Astros reached a one-year, $5.5 million deal with outfielder Norichika Aoki, avoiding arbitration.

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The next step is for the Astros to work out a contract for 2017 for each of those players. According to 2017 salary projections by MLBTradeRumors.com, that group could earn a combined $30.3 million: Keuchel ($9.5 million), Harris ($2.5 million), Fiers ($4.3 million), McHugh ($4.6 million), Gonzalez ($3.6 million), Springer ($4.7 million) and Marisnick ($1.1 million).

The arbitration-eligible players will help push Houston's payroll north of $100 million for the first time since 2009, and it figures to go higher. The Astros are still pursuing some of the impact bats that are remaining on the free-agent and trade markets ahead of the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday.

Aoki, a left-handed bat, gives the Astros an experienced platoon player who can play multiple outfield spots. He'll join an outfield mix that includes Springer, Marisnick and Josh Reddick, who was signed last week to a four-year, $52 million deal.

Aoki, 34, batted .283 with 24 doubles, four triples, four homers and 28 RBIs with a .349 on-base percentage last season in 118 games. He struck once every 10.38 plate appearances last year and complements the Astros' strikeout-heavy, right-handed lineup.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.