The Astros are moving left-hander Framber Valdez into the big league rotation, tweets Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. He’ll step into the fifth spot that was vacated today when Houston optioned the struggling Corbin Martin to Triple-A.
Collin McHugh opened the year in the rotation alongside Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock, but his own struggles landed him in the bullpen. (More recently, elbow troubles sent him to the injured list.) While Martin tossed well in his first outing, he was unable to last more than four innings in any of his next four starts, allowing multiple runs in each of those performances.
Valdez, 25, has gotten a brief look in the rotation himself in the past. He started five games for the ’Stros last year and posted a 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Solid as that ERA appeared, though, Valdez also posted an ugly 20-to-18 K/BB ratio in that time. This season, Valdez has worked as a reliever in the Majors and notched a 3.12 ERA with a slightly improved 21-to-13 K/BB ratio. He’s still too prone to surrendering free passes, but he’ll work to improve that on the fly while stepping into a larger role with the Astros.
Houston’s nine-game lead in the AL West is large enough that there’s no immediate urgency to find a more established starter to round out the rotation, but it also stands to reason that as the trade deadline draws nearer, president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow could pursue upgrades. Peacock and Miley have both pitched well in their starts, but the Astros may want a higher-caliber arm to step into a potential postseason rotation behind Verlander and Cole. Talk of a potential reunion with Dallas Keuchel likely won’t completely die off until he signs with a new team in the near future, though that’d be one alternative if the Astros prefer to hang onto their prospects and entrust a rotation spot to a known commodity.
Houston has a number of in-house alternatives as well, should they wish to exhaust more options before looking outside the organization. Right-handers Brady Rodgers and Josh James are already in the Major League bullpen, while lefty Cionel Perez and righty Rogelio Armenteros are on the 40-man roster and in the Triple-A rotation. It was hoped that top prospect Forrest Whitley would eventually emerge as an option, but he’s struggled throughout the 2019 campaign and recently landed on the minor league injured list due to shoulder fatigue.