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Free-agent options that could fill Framber Valdez’s void in Astros’ rotation

Jake Odorizzi, Rick Porcello, and Cole Hamels are among the possible names the Astros might take a look at after Valdez’s injury.

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Despite spring training is underway, there are still pitching options in free agency that could help a team win. Regarding the Astros, they might take a look at the open market to fill the huge void caused by Framber Valdez’s fractured finger that will keep him sidelined for a while if not for the entire season.

First on the list is veteran righty Jake Odorizzi. As our own Cody Poage recently recalled, Odorizzi is seeking a three-year deal and something around 13-15 million, which I doubt the Astros can afford at this time, especially with Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr. in their walk year.

Money apart, Odorizzi is the best pitcher available. Even though he struggled in 2020 as many players did, the soon-to-be 31-year-old was successful and durable between 2013 and 2019: 62-54, 3.88 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 1021 13 innings.

But beyond him, there are other proven names that may have something left in the tank. For example, you can see former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, 15-year veteran Cole Hamels, and 36-year-old Jeff Samardzija.

Porcello, the youngest of the three, had an awful season in ‘20 according to his ERA (5.64), but there was a huge gap between that and his FIP (3.33): 2.31. Although he’s coming off a season where he allowed 11.3 hits per nine, his other ratios make up for that: 0.8 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 8.2 K/9.

It’s still unknown whether Hamels, the oldest one (37), will play for at least one more season, but if he decided to play, the Astros could be among his suitors. Hamels had a rough 2020 campaign, but pitched to a 3.79 ERA across 332 13 innings between 2018 and 2019 for the Rangers and the Cubs.

The other one is the Shark Samardzija. Before falling off the earth last year, he started 32 games in 2019, threw 181 13 episodes, and recorded a 3.52 ERA (120 ERA+). He only threw 16 23 frames in the final year of his millionaire contract with the Giants.

Other options among starting pitchers available in free agency:

If the Astros do decide to go with an external option instead of testing what they have inside —say Luis García, Forrest Whitley, or Brandon Bielak to name a few—, they might be in a not-so-bad position given the names that are still available. Time to work before the regular season kicks off!