The MLB lockout has to end at some point, right? And when that time comes, the Astros will have plenty of work to do to complete their puzzle for the upcoming 2022 MLB season. One need they’ll have to address is to get another arm for the starting rotation, one that provides them with enough depth.
The only move the Astros have made in terms of starters is to bring back the soon-to-be 39-year-old Justin Verlander for what will be his 17th season in the majors.
And while the Astros’ rotation may look loaded enough, there are still too many ifs. I won’t ask for a high-end starter (holding out hope that the Astros can still find a way to re-sign Carlos Correa), but someone who can start from time to time and give Houston quality innings. By taking a look at the available free agents, I’ve come up with 10 names that might be on the Astros’ lists of possibilities:
In no specific order (number of stars indicate likelihood in my opinion):
1. LHP Tyler Anderson
After being traded to the Mariners, Anderson delivered. The 32-year-old lefty had a 3.38 ERA in his first 10 starts as a Mariner (56 innings), but had two awful outings in his last three performances of the campaign and his ERA skyrocketed. What I like the most about Anderson is that he’s pretty good at limiting hard contact and has a wide repertoire.
2. RHP Chris Archer
People keep thinking there’s room for improvement in Archer’s career and the Astros might be one of them. The right-hander is only 33 years old and owns a pretty good track record with the Rays, pitching in baseball’s toughest division from 2013 to 2017. Sure, there are some red flags (fastball velocity, for example), but Archer might be a good acquisition at the right price.
3. RHP Zach Davies
Davies is not the kind of pitcher that will make you fall in love with his peripherals — you’ll probably cry just by taking a glimpse at his Baseball Savant profile. But he can get the work done. In 2021, he struggled heavily with control, but Davies had pretty decent performances in 2019 with the Brewers and in 2020 with the Padres. He’ll turn 29 on February 7.
4. LHP Danny Duffy
Duffy might easily be the most expensive one out of this group. He threw only 61 innings in ‘21 with the Royals before being traded to the Dodgers —to not throw a single pitch as he suffered a season-ending injury— but he looked pretty good in his best self despite the small sample size. However, his price might be a negative aspect for Houston.
5. RHP Matt Harvey
The man who once led the Mets’ rotation became a journeyman, pitching for the Mets, the Reds, the Angels, the Royals, and the Orioles since 2018. Still with a fastball that can touch 95 miles per hour, Harvey belongs to the same group as Archer. Can he recover himself and put up a decent season again? The Astros could take a look at him.
6. RHP Jimmy Nelson
I have to admit it. Nelson is one of my favorites here and I hope he’s one of the Astros’ too. The 32-year-old reinvented himself after suffering multiple injuries that have allowed him to pitch 51 innings since the end of 2017. He came back as a reliever in 2021 for the Dodgers and impressed everybody. He can perfectly be the swingman the Astros need without breaking the bank.
7. Michael Pineda
After playing for the Mariners, the Yankees, and the Twins, Pineda is now a free agent at the age of 33. Except for some injuries and a suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance, Pineda has been dominant enough to draw a high level of attention. For the right price, he could join his countrymen Framber Valdez, Héctor Neris, Rafael Montero, and Cristian Javier in the Astros’ pitching.
8. LHP Drew Smyly
Smyly comes from winning 11 games for the Braves in 2021 across 126 2⁄3 innings, but he struggled to prevent hits (9.5 H/9) and home runs (1.9 HR/9). However, he has dominated in the past in the American League, a fact that could make him an attractive piece for the Astros after the MLB lockout especially on a short deal.
9. RHP Julio Teherán
Teherán might be an interesting, low-profile acquisition for the Astros. From 2013 to 2019, the 31-year-old righty was among the most consistent rotation arms in the National League pitching for the Braves. He was disastrous for the Angels in 2020 and pitched well in his debut with the Tigers in 2021 — his only appearance for Detroit as he landed immediately on the IL. Acquiring Teherán will probably take a pretty affordable offer with incentives.
10. RHP Carlos Martínez
Martínez, who used to be an excellent arm for the Cardinals, showed signs of decline in 2020 and 2021 going 4-12 with a 6.95 ERA in just 102 1⁄3 frames. But he’s just 30 years old and there’s no reason to doubt he can be better than his most recent version. Due to how he’s looked over the past two years, his price might be affordable for Houston. Nice bet!