The Houston Astros are ready to take the next step towards contention and are willing to open their pocketbooks to make it happen.

Jon Morosi reports the Astros intend on pursuing top free agent Edwin Encarnacion and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera this offseason. The pursuits are an indication Houston is increasing its payroll to be a huge player this offseason.

Houston ranked 23rd in baseball last season with a $106 million total payroll. The club finished with its second consecutive winning season at 84-78 and are starting to take advantage of the depth of assets and payroll created from four years of tanking.

Pursuing Encarnacion is a no-brainer for the Astros. Houston ranked 14th in total home runs and has an opening at DH with Evan Gattis shifting to catcher following the likely departure of Jason Castro in free agency. Encarnacion is a pure power hitter with an acumen to get on base. The 33-year-old has hit at least 34 home runs in the past five seasons. A potential contract would run anywhere from $15-25 million per season.

Acquiring Cabrera would cost the club more assets (in terms of both prospects and money), but the return would be one of the game’s premiere players. The 33-year-old had a terrific season for the Detroit Tigers, hitting .316 to go with 38 home runs and 108 RBI. The Tigers are open for business, so adding the remaining $220 million owed to Cabrera could be done – although, it would surely cost a top prospect such as Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley, and/or Kyle Tucker. However, the move would solidify Houston’s middle-order for seasons to come, even if Cabrera will be entering his decline phase.

Whether the Astros can land either slugger is unknown. But, they have the assets and financial flexibility to make it happen. Houston is ready to win and do it now.

About Liam McGuire

Social +Staff writer for The Comeback & Awful Announcing.