The Astros announced this afternoon they’ve acquired righty Spenser Watkins from the Orioles and optioned him to Triple-A Sugar Land. Baltimore receives cash in return. Houston also selected outfielder Bligh Madris onto the big league roster, as previously reported. In order to create 40-man roster space, they transferred Michael Brantley and José Urquidy to the 60-day injured list.
Watkins has had a tough year in Triple-A. He’s started six of eight games and worked to a 7.27 ERA through 26 innings. The former 30th-round pick has a modest 15.7% strikeout percentage and has walked a lofty 13.4% of opponents. Watkins has kept the ball on the ground at a massive 55.3% clip, but the strikeout and walk numbers and overall ERA pushed him off Baltimore’s 40-man roster on Tuesday.
The Astros will take a change of scenery flier to add some experienced rotation depth to the upper minors. Injuries to Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia and Urquidy have pushed depth arms J.P. France and Ronel Blanco into the rotation. Brandon Bielak and Bryan Garcia are the most experienced Triple-A starters, so Watkins is a sensible acquisition.
Now 30, Watkins has appeared in two big league seasons with the O’s. He’s made 30 starts in 39 outings, posting a 5.85 ERA across 160 frames. Watkins hasn’t missed many bats, but he’d walked just under 7% of opponents at the MLB level. He had a quality 6.1% walk percentage in Triple-A last season.
His control has been erratic this season, but his broader track record is that of a strike-throwing depth arm. This is Watkins’ final minor league option year; the Astros can keep him in Triple-A for the rest of the season but would have to carry him on next year’s Opening Day roster if he holds his 40-man spot until then.
Brantley’s and Urquidy’s IL moves are procedural transactions. Brantley has already been on the IL for well past 60 days as he works back from last summer’s shoulder surgery. Urquidy landed on the shelf on May 1 with discomfort in his throwing shoulder. He’s not expected to return until next month.
Robert Murray of FanSided first reported the Astros’ acquisition of Watkins.