The Astros have talked to left-hander Randy Choate, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. Choate would provide the club with some southpaw relief depth beyond Tony Sipp, as Sipp and Kevin Chapman are the only lefty relievers on Houston’s 40-man roster.
Choate, 40, is the definition of a lefty specialist. Over his 15-season career, Choate has been hit hard by right-handed batters (a .290/.403/.404 slash line) while dominating left-handed hitters to the tune of a measly .195/.276/.274 slash. Choate posted similar splits in 27 1/3 innings last season with the Cardinals while delivering an overall 3.95 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 4.4 K/BB rate and 61.7% ground ball rate. In regards to that last stat, 2015 was Choate’s seventh consecutive year with a grounder rate of at least 60 percent.
Despite Choate’s recent success, there hasn’t been any buzz surrounding his free agency this offseason. It’s probably no surprise that teams were waiting, given Choate’s age and somewhat limited skillset. He figures to draw more interest now, as teams develop bullpen openings due to injury or dissatisfaction with their internal left-handed options.
As Drellich notes, several Astros righty relievers have good splits against left-handed batters. While there may not be a pressing need for a southpaw, however, adding a pitcher like Choate would be a low-cost way to solve a problem before it develops during the season. The bullpen is one of a few areas where Houston is lacking in depth, Drellich opines, as the club could also stand to bolster its backup situation at catcher or either corner infield slot.