To quote Allen Gamble, AKA Will Ferrell, from the movie The Other Guys “They aren’t all going to be first-round picks”. Obviously, he was not referencing MLB free agency, but there is a lot of wisdom in that statement.
The Astros do not have the money to make a sexy free agent signing this winter; however, they have clear holes that must be addressed. The most glaring one is a lack of starting pitching depth. Hopefully, Garcia and McCullers can fully recover and return this summer, but that is not guaranteed. Currently, the Astros only have six starting pitchers with big-league experience set to be healthy on opening day. While this may seem like an adequate amount, most teams will need at least ten different starters throughout the season. Furthermore, JP France and Hunter Brown are coming off seasons in which they pitched a career number of innings; the Astros will likely have to cut their usage. Luckily, there is an affordable solution to this problem: Kyle Gibson.
Kyle Gibson is coming off a solid season, pitching 192 innings with a 4.13 FIP, and due to his advanced age, 36, will likely be an affordable option. Most industry experts project him to sign a contract worth approximately $25 million for two years. This works perfectly for the Stros, as their projected opening-day payroll is approximately $12 million under the luxury cap.
Gibson is a reliable innings eater, which the Astros desperately need. Over the past nine seasons, Gibson has averaged 175 IP a year. Only Framber Valdez could surpass that mark in 2023 for the Astros.
Adding another workhouse to the rotation will undoubtedly take the pressure off young pitchers like Hunter Brown. Without the pressure to make it through the order three times a start, Brown will likely see an improvement in his numbers. In 2023, Brown’s wOBA increased 16 basis points the second time through the order, and then another 39 basis points his third time. Although we would all love for him to adjust and improve, signing a workhouse like Kyle Gibson gives the team more options for his usage.
Do not expect Crane and Brown to make a run at any big free agents this offseason. Unless Crane is willing to break the bank, they do not have the resources to do that. However, the Astros can still patch up weaknesses from last year, and signing Gibson will be the best way to do that. By signing Gibson, the Astros can give fewer innings to replacement-level pitchers like Blanco and Bielak. Also, adding another workhouse will alleviate the pressure on Brown to go longer in the game; perhaps he could also move into a long reliever role. It is not splashy, but a Kyle Gibson signing would plug many holes.