As the Astros prepare for a World Series title defense, they are at least weighing the possibility of adding a significant rotation piece, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). Per the report, the club has “shown interest” in top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. Possible trade targets such as Chris Archer could also be considered.
At this stage, it seems, that interest is mostly exploratory in nature. That’s not to diminish the importance of the report, though: the involvement of the ’Stros at the top of the rotation market could certainly have a significant bearing on how things shake out.
Though Houston’s payroll has continued to climb northward in recent years, the team’s successes have perhaps freed up some additional financial flexibility. Rosenthal also notes that the organization could find a taker for Collin McHugh — who’s projected to earn $4.8MM by MLBTR — should they make a big strike in the rotation.
On the one hand, this news hardly rates as a surprise. While the ’Stros staff has plenty of talent, particularly with Justin Verlander now on hand, it also comes with some questions. Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton have had some health concerns at times and Brad Peacock will need to prove his 2017 breakout is sustainable. Plus, with Dallas Keuchel slated for free agency next winter, there’s room to consider a long-term addition.
On the other, this is a bit of an interesting development. The unfortunate incident involving Yulieski Gurriel mocking Darvish during the World Series is one factor with regard to that particular possibility, though both players’ responses in the aftermath suggest it’s not an insurmountable barrier. Of greater importance, perhaps, is the fact that the Astros were so careful even when deciding to add Verlander out of concern for over-burdening their future payroll. Darvish and Arrieta are each already 31 years of age.
Then there’s the fact that the bullpen remains the obvious area to target. What’s most interesting about this report may be the possibility that the Astros would consider a major rotation upgrade to be a means of answering needs on the relief side — at least in part. With top youngsters such as Francis Martes and David Paulino climbing the ladder, there are plenty of avenues for creativity. Adding another quality starter would leave the organization with significant depth and flexibility to keep arms fresh through the season and, perhaps, enter a hypothetical postseason run with loads of interesting possibilities for handling a staff.