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Astros rumors: Joe Thatcher could be on Houston's radar

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Could the Astros be interested in the lefty on a minor-league deal?

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of low-wattage rumors recently on Astros additions before spring training opens next week. We found out the Astros are sort of in on Barry Zito and may invite him to spring. While that's not the worst idea I've heard this week, it's right up there.

Zito hasn't been good for a few years and doesn't have any of the peripheral numbers to suggest he'd return to form. On a minor league invite, it wouldn't hurt anything, as Zito could be "experienced" depth.

The more interesting rumor comes to us from Chris Cotillo:

Thatcher's a lefty. Houston doesn't have many lefties in the bullpen. In fact, right now, they have Tony Sipp and Kevin Chapman, though Chapman may not really have a spot.

The Astros have missed out on a couple other reliever candidates recently. Most notable among them is Jose Veras, who signed a minor league deal with Atlanta earlier this week.

Thatcher, though, could give Houston another lefty to pair with Sipp or Chapman in the 'pen. Of course, Houston may not view Sipp as a LOOGY candidate and might pencil him into the late innings as well. If that's the case, could they carry three lefties in the bullpen, with Fields, Qualls, Neshek and Gregerson rounding out the group?

Thatcher also has San Diego connections, like Gregerson before him, that could be intriguing for new Astros manager A.J. Hinch. Last season, Thatcher threw 30 innings with a 3.86 ERA and 27 strikeouts with four walks. He's got a career walk rate of 7.7 percent and a career strikeout rate of 24 percent, though that dipped to 20 percent last season.

His average fastball velocity has dipped from around 88.5 MPH with the Padres to 86 MPH last season and he mainly features that two-seamer with a slider.

What do you think? Will Thatcher improve the bullpen?