The initial reaction to Framber Valdez‘s broken finger in his initial outing on Tuesday was a little unsettling for fans. After all, how bad could it be as he kept throwing after being hurt in the first inning and went on to complete a second inning of pitching? How bad it MIGHT be (as everything is unofficially coming from Jon Heyman) is that Framber may have to have surgery, and such surgery may cause him to miss the whole season. Surgery Recommended For Framber Valdez – MLB Trade Rumors.
As we discussed a month ago…..Why Astros’ biggest concern may be starting pitching | CHIPALATTA the lack of starting pitching depth might have been the biggest concern heading into Spring Training. If Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy do their part and produce up to their capabilities, filling the 5th spot may not be a huge concern. But if one of those folks gets hurts or goes south, this could get serious in a hurry. And of course, there is the ever-present crazy uncle in the basement….how much of a concern is it that the only guy to throw 70 innings for the Astros in 2020 is the one who is out. Can the rotation hold up under the extra demands of a full 162 game (or so) season?
What are the options?
Go grab one. It is not my money or my budget, but one of the choices here is to pick up one of the free agent pitchers still floating free while Spring Training is just getting rolling. This probably is more of an option if Valdez is out for the whole season. The available free agents should be named Joe Asterisks – there is a problem with every one of them. Looking at the prime ones… Jake Odorizzi (30 y.o.) keeps getting tossed out there as available, but he likely would eat up the $13.5 MM space the team has under the tax line. And he was hurt in 2020. Cole Hamels (37) – great career and solid lately, but only pitched 3.1 innings in 2020 due to shoulder problems. Mike Leake (33) has always been solid, but he sat out in 2019 due to the COVID situation and has said he won’t sign before the season starts and then only if he feels comfortable with where COVID is. Rick Porcello (32 – doesn’t it feel like he should be 42?) won the Cy Young in 2016 but has declined and had a healthy 2019 and 2020 with an unhealthy 5.5+ ERA. Jeff Samardzija (36) would be fun just to see how anyone local pronounces his name, but after an excellent bounce-back year in 2019, he only pitched 16.2 innings at a 9+ ERA in 2020 due to shoulder impingement. I don’t know what that is, but I get queasy typing it. Homer Bailey (34) was not good between 2015 and 2019 and almost non-existent (8 innings) in 2020. Anibal Sanchez (37) has been overall good over the years but was bad in 2020. Zack Godley (30) was bad in both 2019 and 2020. Trevor Cahill (Happy Birthday Trevor, who turned 33 on March 1) was so-so as a starter in 2020 and much better as a reliever.
Homegrown. After watching what James Click did when pitchers started falling like the Astros offensive statistics in 2020, the Astros are likely to fill from within for the Framber spot. That got a little tougher after the latest COVID protocol news from the team ….COVID Notes: Astros, Red Sox, Cordero – MLB Trade Rumors Now, this does not mean they are all away for an extended time. Some may just have to pass a couple COVID tests to show they do not have the virus.
Brian Abreu, Luis Garcia, Francis Martes and even NRI Hector Velazquez all would have been marginally considered for a spot in the rotation. Obviously, Cristian Javier, Pedro Baez and Enoli Paredes appeared to be locks for the roster, so any extended missed time by them could be problematic. This may give other 40 man roster pitchers such as Forrest Whitley, Tyler Ivey, Brandon Bielak, Jairo Solis, Peter Solomon and Nivaldo Rodriguez a shot at the brass ring. Whether this extends to other pitchers such as fast-rising Hunter Brown…..we shall see.
Other ways. Other potential ways of filling the Valdez spot (and perhaps other spots) would include two options. One would be a trade, and speculating on who that might be at this point is pointless. The other would be picking up someone who was released along the way in Spring Training, though anyone of true value might be snagged by the teams ahead of the Astros in the picking order.
These do not seem like the likeliest options, and probably any option chosen depends on 1) How long they truly think Framber’s recovery time is and; 2) If any of the 8 pitchers is going to be out an extended time with the COVID. Remember that Jose Urquidy missed much of last season after his COVID infection.
Any way you look at it, this will be another view into how James Click will operate the team as opposed to how Jeff Luhnow did. Any decision made will likely keep the long view in mind.