Source: #Astros agree to deal with Jerome Williams, pending physical.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 3, 2014
The signing of Williams didn't come as much of a surprise, but it seemed like this would likely be a minor-league deal. Not so fast.
Jerome Williams' deal with #Astros is one-year, guaranteed MLB deal with performance bonuses.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 3, 2014
Williams is expected to be in the Astros' rotation.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 3, 2014
Well that changes things, especially the extensive post on the Astros starting rotation from this morning.
The Astros will be the fifth team and eighth organization Williams has pitched for in what will be his 11th season as an MLB pitcher. Last season with the Angels, Williams finished 9-10 with a 4.57 ERA and a 4.60 FIP. Williams posted a 0.3 WAR and has never posted a WAR over one since his rookie season in 2003.
When investigating Williams' track record, it's not too surprising that general manager Jeff Luhnow is taking a flyer on the 32-year old righty. Williams has a career 48.6 percent groundball rate and has consistently improved his control as his career gone on. Williams also posted a career-high 169.1 innings last season and should at the very least eat up innings if some of the younger options don't impress for the Astros.
The downsides of Williams include a tendency toward the long ball (23 allowed in 2013) while striking out less than six batters per nine innings throughout his career.
Thoughts from the TCB staff:
Another ridiculous ground ball pitcher. The Astros seem to be all-in on ground ball guys. Williams has a career 48.6% GB rate, which falls under the "wow" category. That said, I'm pretty indifferent to the addition. The Astros must be a lot more faithful in projective analytics (xFIP, pFIP, SIERA) than they are in past production. He walks a few less batters than Anthony Bass, but other than that they look pretty similar. Except Bass is six years younger.
Are we seeing the first signs of Luhnow and Co. reacting to innings counts for young guys? They can't expect Obiehockey, Cosart or any of the other young ones to throw 200 innings. That means they HAVE to have guys like Feldman and Williams to soak some of those up, right? Even if Williams only gets 80-100 IP, that helps them bring along the young arms more carefully.
I see why he could get an opportunity ahead of Harrell. He's got more experience and a better walk rate.
So how does Williams fit in? Or maybe the better question is who is now left on the outside looking in among the favorites to make the Astros' rotation?