The Astros have optioned lefty Framber Valdez to Triple-A following tonight’s game, the team announced to reporters (Twitter link via the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome). The move creates a vacancy in the Houston rotation, as Valdez had been serving as the fifth starter. A corresponding roster move will be announced tomorrow.
Valdez had a rough night in Houston’s 14-2 loss to the Pirates, as he was ambushed for six runs on eight hits and a walk in three innings of work. That marked the second straight clunker for the 25-year-old southpaw, who served up five runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Yankees his last time out. Prior to those rough two outings, though, Valdez had turned in two strong performances (albeit against lackluster Orioles and Blue Jays lineups).
The ’Stros have a pair of off days baked into the schedule next week, so they can navigate a trip through the rotation without needing to rely on a fifth starter. Still, it’s worth wondering whether they’ll give Valdez another look or explore another possibility. The team did just activate Collin McHugh from the injured list, though he struggled in the rotation earlier this season. The Astros have also tried righty Corbin Martin in that role, but he was hit hard in the big leagues and hasn’t exactly thrived in three starts since being sent back down. Rogelio Armenteros won’t be an option for another nine days (barring an injury on the MLB roster), as he was just optioned to Triple-A yesterday. He hasn’t excelled in Triple-A himself, anyhow. Top prospect Forrest Whitley, meanwhile, has battled shoulder issues recently and isn’t close to being an option at this point.
All of that uncertainty could lead the Astros to eventually look outside the organization for some rotation help. They’re currently leading the Rangers by 5.5 games, so there’s no urgency to strike up a deal in the short term, but that’s a closer race than many anticipated in the American League West. Injuries to some star players (e.g. Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa) haven’t helped Houston, although they’re close to full strength in the lineup at this point, with only Correa absent among the team’s regulars. Still, the rotation was largely viewed as a piecemeal operation heading into the season, and it seems reasonable to expect that the Astros will at the very least explore their options — particularly with Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley set to become free agents at season’s end.