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Astros’ pitching options narrow with Hill & Sale off the table

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Two rumored targets for the Astros are now gone.

Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Winter Meetings are the most wonderful time of the year for baseball rumors. The Houston Astros have been one of the most prolific teams when it comes to rumors this edition of the Winter Meetings.

Houston made a splash with Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran signings while trading for Brian McCann. But the team didn’t appear done with rumors that the Astros were looking to improve the starting rotation via trade or free agency.

The Astros were connected with LHP Rich Hill last week, per ESPN’s Jim Bowden. But Hill signed with the Dodgers re-signed with the Dodgers on Tuesday to the tune of three-years, $48 million.

Another left-handed front line pitcher was connected for the Astros for a time, Chris Sale — reported Joel Sherman. The price tag for Sale was much steeper for Sale, requiring a large group of prospects, a fact confirmed today as Sale was traded to Boston.

The Red Sox traded 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada, 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, and two more top prospects yet to be named. If it had been the Astros that made this deal, it probably would have looked like Alex Bregman, Francis Martes, and probably a grab bag of players like Daz Cameron, Colin Moran, and Derek Fisher (throwing some names out).

But with both Hill and Sale off the table, where do the Astros go from here?

The top free agent options remaining are names like Jason Hammel and Ivan Nova. Would either be an upgrade over Mike Fiers or Charlie Morton?

Hammel was projected for a three-year, $42 million deal by MLB Trade Rumors. He was 15-10 with 3.83 ERA in 30 starts last season with a 3.83 ERA last season with the Cubs. He has had a sub 4.00 ERA his last two seasons with Chicago.

Nova is projected at four-years, $52 million. Nova was great last season with the Pirates — posting a 5-2 record with a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts with Pittsburgh. But he couldn’t hold as starting rotation spot with the Yankees before being traded to the Buccos — 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 21 games (15 starts).

Or could the Astros go after Rays ace Chris Archer? The biggest question is what will the Astros need to get him? It will require a Sale-like deal if not more.

Right now the Astros appear to be going to the 2016 season with a stacked lineup and a very similar starting rotation.