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Why the Astros should have signed Garrett Richards

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So I want to preface this by letting you guys know that I wrote this article prior to the news of Garrett signing with the Padres yesterday. With that said, I still thought it would be an interesting article to get our community’s perspective and discussion on.

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I know, I know, we have an immediate need in the starting rotation NOW, and here I am posting about a Free Agent Pitcher that is out for all of 2019 due to Tommy John. (I know we already have one of these in Lance McCullers as well). And yes, he’s made all of 28 starts over the past 3 seasons, so why would I be even thinking about him?

Well, when healthy, Garrett is an excellent pitcher, and even in his limited exposure during his injury shortened seasons, he performed well above average.

Who Is Garrett Richards?

Garrett, now 30, was the 42nd overall draft pick in 2009. John Sickels had him as a prospect of the day back in 2011 – a great read, but here is a good recap:

“A 6-3, 215 pound, 23 year-old right-hander, Richards works with a 91-94 MPH sinking fastball, topping out at 95-96. His secondary pitches are a slider, curveball, and changeup. All three show promise, but all three were very erratic in college and have gradually improved in pro ball. Texas League reports confirm this steady improvement, but the fastball remains his bread-and-butter. His control is generally quite good, and his command has improved: keep in mind that control (throwing general strikes) and command (hitting your spots within the strike zone) are not the same thing. Some scouts question his mechanics and worry that his delivery places stress on the shoulder, but so far he’s been very durable.”

“Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about Richards and I think he can be a solid inning-eating starter. We should see him sometime in 2012.”

In 2015, Fangraphs did an article on Garrett and why he was so difficult to square up. And had this to say:

“He didn’t completely change as a pitcher — he’s always had live stuff — but he simultaneously boosted his velocity while improving his command, with the velocity boost giving hitters reduced timing, and with the command improvement keeping pitches in far safer places. Richards was able to move around his fastballs, and he more consistently kept his breaking balls down, so he became that much tougher to attack with authority. Lefties had to deal with a sinker at 97, running away. Righties had to deal with a fastball at 97, with cutting action. The slider was available in any count.”

Performance in the Majors

With the stellar reviews above, his 2014-2018 performance is probably not going to be shocking to anyone.

Of all pitchers from 2014-2018 with 500+ IP, Garrett ranks 13th with his 3.15 ERA / 16th in FIP (3.38), narrowly edging out some big name pitchers like Luis Severino (3.38 FIP - 518 IP), Chris Archer (3.43 FIP - 957 IP), Dallas Keuchel (3.45 FIP - 950 IP), and Justin Verlander (3.46 FIP – 987 IP).

To clarify, I’m in NO WAY stating that he’s a better pitcher, more valuable, etc – just want to put his performance when he actually has pitched into perspective.

Pitches:

Fastball – 96.3 MPH / 62.4% of all Pitches / Spin Rate 2,602

Slider – 87.7 MPH / 30.4% of all Pitches / Spin Rate -

Curve – 79.2 MPH / 5.6% of all Pitches / Spin Rate – 3,252

The good news is that Garrett has not lost velocity throughout his injuries. His pitch usage has changed slightly with him no longer throwing a change-up (thus me removing it from the pitches), and increasing his off-speed pitches – dropping the Fastball to around 50% usage.

So where’s the downside – well the injury side is the obvious one.

Injury History

In 2014, Garrett suffered a torn patellar tendon to his left knee, while fielding a play at first base.

This certainly seemed more like a fluke accident than the start of an injury history, this cut his 2014 short, but ultimately he came back in 2015 going 15-12 with a 3.67 ERA and pitching 207 innings.

His 2016 season again started off strong, but came to a screeching halt, when it was found out that Garrett had partially torn his ulnar collateral ligament – an injury that generally leads to Tommy John Surgery. Steve Yoon, presented that a stem cell procedure could be used instead as Garrett had only partially torn his UCL, allowing for a quicker recovery, and ultimately Garrett pitching again sooner.

I’m not a medical expert, nor do I want to weigh in on the decision, but there are numerous articles such as this one from the LA Times that go into more detail, and that the procedure ultimately failed in Garrett’s case.

Garrett did suffer minor strains of his bicep and hamstring in 2017, but the big news of course was that he would have to be shut down due to his UCL being torn and ultimately requiring Tommy John Surgery.

What Would It Take:

I will default to MLBTradeRumor’s Top 50 Free Agents and Predictions:

43. Garrett RichardsTigers. Two years, $10MM. Richards, 30, has spent his entire career with the Angels, with his best work coming in 2014-15. He’s made only 28 starts over the past three seasons after deciding to treat a torn UCL with a platelet-rich plasma injection. He also endured a biceps strain in 2017 and a hamstring strain this year before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in July. The 2019 season is out of the picture for Richards, who could sign a two-year deal in the vein of those inked by Drew Smyly and Michael Pineda. A team would be paying entirely for Richards’ 2020 season. Just about any club that wants to plan ahead and has some payroll space and mild tolerance for risk could be a candidate.

HH’s Thoughts:

To me, this is a great low-risk, high-reward type of signing. The 2 years, $10 Million, if accurate is a minimal salary for a player with Garrett’s upside. In addition to the (potential) loss of Keuchel and Morton this year, Verlander, Cole, and McHugh are potentially Free Agents following the next season. This would be a shrewd move by Luhnow to prepare for a potential departure of a Front Line starter with minimal risk. (Strom can even get started working his magic early).

In the last 2 seasons that Garrett pitched (2018 – 76.1 IP, 2017 – 27.2 IP) – he was worth EXACTLY 1 WAR both years. If he came back in 2020 and ultimately had a similar fate injury wise, we’d already be ahead of the game with the rising cost of WAR.

At that price, it’s a no-brainer. I honestly think Richards could go for double that and I wouldn’t balk.

Let me know what you think? Would you want the Astros to sign Richards?

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So now it’s been announced that the Padres signed Richards for a 2-year, 15.5 Million Dollar contract (with up to 2.5 Million in incentives). Interestingly enough - my “double that” figure was not too far off. And I’m still honestly of the opinion I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.

Let me know your thoughts - Would you have signed him? Are you disappointed that the Astros didn’t?

Poll

Are you disappointed the Astros did not sign Garrett Richards?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Yes
    (68 votes)
  • 66%
    No
    (135 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now