The Astros’ primary mission during this offseason is to bring back Carlos Correa. But to be honest, one of their other needs is starting pitchers, one or two pieces that make the rotation stronger and deeper. And with Zack Greinke gone and Justin Verlander yet to make a decision on the qualifying offer extended by the team, it’s good to have options besides those two.
Even though we’d love to see Marcus Stroman or Robbie Ray arriving at Houston, there are other affordable, interesting options the Astros may want to take a look at. Let’s dive right into them…
1. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb struggled to stay healthy in 2021, but when he was, he pitched pretty well with the Angels. In the tough AL West division, he went 8-3 with a 3.76 ERA in 18 starts (93.1 innings). He allowed only five home runs, gave up 33 walks, and struck out 98 opponents. His FIP (2.92) was much better than his ERA while his WHIP closed at 1.26.
Although Cobb’s prime is likely a part of the past, he has an interesting track record with the Rays. Besides, he discovered a split-finger pitch years ago that has become a massive weapon for him (.226 AVG / .308 SLG with 40 strikeouts in 2021) and is getting higher and higher in terms of usage percentage.
At this point when he’s 34 years old, it’s hard to think that Cobb’s asking price to sign is unreachable for the Astros. Maybe a two- or three-year offer with incentives could do it for Cobb. As an additional stat, he threw 41 1/3 episodes against division rivals this year and recorded a 4.14 ERA (19 ER).
2. RHP Anthony DeSclafani
In December, the Giants make a bet on an arm that had a disastrous 2020. The signed righty Anthony DeSclafani, a free agent of the Reds, for only one year and $6 million. They won the bet, the signing paid off big time for them. DeSclafani had a career year for the NL West champions. He went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA across 167 2/3 frames of 141 hits, 42 walks, 152 strikeouts, and a 1.09 WHIP.
It’s true the 31-year-old raised his value thanks to his solid year. But he still should have an affordable price. DeSclafani has a vast repertoire of five pitches, though his biggest one is his sinker. His slider, despite being great in the past wasn’t as effective in 2021, but the track record is still there with that pitch.
DeSclafani could easily be the one with the biggest upside of these three hurlers. He shouldn’t take too long to sign somewhere. If the Astros want to make a run on him, they should hurry up.
3. LHP Alex Wood
Wood already knows what it is to be amazing. He has at least three great years under his belt and 2021 was one of them. The southpaw was another bet the Giants made last season that paid off. Wood pitched at a high level, going 10-4, 3.83 ERA in 138 2/3 innings across 26 starts. He finished the season with pretty good 0.9 HR/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 9.9 K/9 ratios.
A good thing for the Astros and their hopes of making it to the postseason in the upcoming years is that Wood has been successful in October. Mostly as a reliever, he even won the World Series with the Dodgers in 2020. Wood’s new slider has given him great results so far and can give him a second wind in his career after injuries in ’19 and ‘20.
While DeSclafani might be the one with the biggest upside, something tells me that Wood would be the most expensive pitcher out of this group.
With the market heating up for starting pitchers, the Astros may need to take action soon in what could be a very busy offseason for them.