JULY 28: The Astros announced today that Thatcher cleared waivers and elected free agency. He and his representatives at Platinum Sports are now free to seek a deal with interested parties.
JULY 21: The Astros have designated left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher for assignment in order to clear room on the active roster for Vincent Velasquez, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter).
Thatcher signed a minor league deal with Houston in the offseason but made the team out of Spring Training and has enjoyed generally successful results in his first year with the Astros. He’s posted a 3.79 ERA and averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings, though he’s also battled his command, yielding 5.2 walks per nine frames as well.
Thatcher is typically an effective weapon versus left-handed hitters, but that wasn’t the case in 2015. In fact, opponents as a whole batted .292/.376/.389 versus the 33-year-old. However, Thatcher did have his share of poor luck on balls in play; over the life of his career, opponents have notched a .321 BABIP versus Thatcher, but that number soared to .377 this season in Houston. He did have his share of good fortune as well, as both his strand rate and homer-to-flyball rate were a bit more favorable than his career norms.
Thatcher’s minor league deal had a $1MM base salary and called for up to $1.3MM worth of additional incentives, so his financial cost wouldn’t be exorbitant. Given the reasonable dollars and the fact that he has a 3.04 ERA with 10.0 K/9 vs. 3.0 BB/9 dating back to 2009, Thatcher looks to be capable of serving as a useful bullpen cog elsewhere, should the Astros attempt to gauge interest on the trade market. Of course, the return for a player that took a minor league deal in the winter and has since been designated — decent results notwithstanding — would be minimal.