The Astros have inked free-agent righty Hector Rondon to a two-year, $8.5MM pact. Rondon, an Octagon client, was non-tendered by the Cubs earlier this month. Now, he’s lined up for successive $4MM and $4.5MM salaries in Houston, where he’ll represent an arm with closing experience to help fortify the back of the bullpen.
Rondon, 30 in February, saved 77 games with a 2.44 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 with the Cubs fro 2014-16. He initially lost the closer’s role in Chicago through little fault of his own, as he was bumped from that spot when Chicago acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline.
The 2017 season was Rondon’s worst since the 2013 campaign (when he was a Rule 5 pick out of the Indians organization), as he turned in a 4.24 ERA with a 3.1 BB/9 mark — both his highest levels since that rookie season. However, Rondon also logged a career-high 10.8 K/9 and 29.1 percent overall strikeout rate in 2017 while maintaining excellent fastball velocity (average of 96.4 mph) and an above-average ground-ball rate (48.3 percent).
Like many pitchers throughout the league, Rondon has become increasingly susceptible to home runs across the past two seasons, averaging 1.5 HR/9 despite being extremely stingy in that regard throughout the first three seasons of his career. His increased vulnerability to the long ball obviously made the uptick in walks this past season all the more damning, though metrics like xFIP (3.43) and SIERA (3.20) remained generally bullish on his abilities.
Houston has already reportedly added to its supply of late-inning arms by striking a deal for sidearm righty Joe Smith, and Rondon will give them another option to pair with the likes of Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris in the late innings. Giles, who served as the team’s closer throughout the season, struggled in the playoffs, though the addition of Rondon wouldn’t seem to supplant him from that ninth-inning role. If Giles’ struggles carry over into the 2018 campaign, though, Rondon would certainly be a plausible alternative for manager A.J. Hinch to get the final few outs of a game, given his extensive experience in Chicago.
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