"I talked to his agent a couple of weeks ago and told him we would really like to have him here, but I just don't know if it's going to work in our situation," Astros general manager Ed Wade said.
Veteran agent Barry Meister, who represents Barmes and Roy Oswalt, among others, understands the Astros will have to wait until the ownership issue gets resolved before making a run at free agents.
"I had talked to the Astros before free agency started, and they indicated, as we all know, they have some issues they have to deal with," Meister said. "Ed and I have a good relationship, but there are issues of ownership."
The Astros have until Nov. 23 to decide if they're going to offer salary arbitration to Barmes, who's a Type B free agent. He would have to sign with another team before Nov. 23 or reject the Astros' offer of arbitration in order for Hoston to get a compensatory pick in next year's First-Year Player Draft. He has until Dec. 7 to accept or reject arbitration.
Barmes, who was traded to the Astros a year ago and made $3.92 million in 2011, will have no shortage of suitors, Meister said.
"I think there's going to be a significant market for him," he said. "He's not averse to coming back to Houston, but when they're ready to talk about that, we're ready to do the same."
Barmes hit .244 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs this past season after missing the first few weeks with a broken hand suffered in Spring Training. He played a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop and provided clubhouse leadership on a young team that struggled to 106 losses.
If Barmes doesn't return, the Astros could choose to fill the void at shortstop through free agency by signing a player who wouldn't cost as much. Houston has some internal options, as well. Last week, the club claimed infielder Brian Bixler off waivers from the Nationals, and there have been some preliminary discussions of moving Jimmy Paredes to shortstop from third base. That appears unlikely, however.
Meanwhile, Meister said Astros reliever Brandon Lyon has been stretched out to 90 feet in his throwing program at his home in Utah. Lyon went 3-3 with four saves in 15 games before going on the disabled list in May and eventually having surgery in June to repair the detachment of his right biceps tendon and repair a tear of the labrum.
"He's not reporting any problems," Meister said. "He feels like he's building arm strength."
The Astros have $47 million in contract obligations for next year -- Carlos Lee ($19 million), Brett Myers ($12 million), Wandy Rodriguez ($10.5 million) and Lyon ($5.5 million).