Right-hander Josh James underwent flexor tendon surgery this week, the Astros announced to The Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome and other reporters. James was already on the Astros’ 60-day injured list, and his surgery now adds to an injury-plagued few seasons for the 29-year-old.
James has spent his entire career in the Astros organization, after being a 34th-round draft pick in 2014. The righty made his MLB debut with 23 innings in 2018, and then took on a larger role in tossing 61 1/3 innings for the American League champions in 2019. While James’ 4.70 ERA and 13.2% walk rate that season were nothing special, his 97.2 mph velocity and his big 37.6% strikeout rate seemingly made him a live arm to watch in the future.
However, James has only thrown 22 1/3 total innings in the majors since the start of the 2020 season, and none at all in 2022. James underwent hip surgery in October 2020, battled hamstring problems that delayed his hip rehab in 2021, and this season has been sidelined by back problems and a right lat strain. Over 27 2/3 innings in the minors this season, James has struggled to a 6.51 ERA and continued to issue too many free passes.
The flexor tendon procedure now creates doubt about James’ potential readiness for the start of Spring Training or the start of the 2023 season. It already seemed likely that Houston would move on from James this winter, as he is due a minimal raise (from his $800K salary in 2022) in his second year of arbitration eligibility. With another surgery now impacting James’ future, he seems like a logical non-tender candidate, though the Astros could look to re-sign him at a lower salary or on a minor league contract.