I’m taking this tweet with a grain of salt because it is Jon Heyman. He usually isn’t the first one to report news, and when he is the first, there are sometimes a few missing details. However, I don’t like the sound of not having our beautiful staff ace Framber not in the rotation this year.
2020 was a shortened season, so Valdez didn’t have a full season worth of stats, but his regular season and postseason performances gave us Astros fans a whole lot of hope for the future. The starting rotation didn’t have a lot of wiggle room headed into the 2021 season, and one injury could derail it all. Here we are and there’s already a potential huge injury that is going to shake up the rotation.
Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy, and Christian Javier are the four guys that pretty much have a spot in the rotation. The biggest question now is how well will Urquidy and Javier perform over the course of a full season, and who will be the fifth guy? The latter question is obviously the bigger one. It’s a big hole to fill especially the way Valdez was pitching just a few months ago.
There are ways to fill that fifth slot with a by committee choice on every fifth day, a trade, or going the free agency route. I believe that Jim Crane would like to go with the by committee choice because that means he gets to keep his precious money in his already fat pockets. I’m not entirely sure where James Click’s head is at with this situation either because there hasn’t truly been a shocking move made under his control unless you count the Michael Brantley deal. Click filled up the bullpen in the offseason with the signings of Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez.
If the Astros choose to go by committee for the fifth spot then Luis Garcia is probably at the top of the list. He showed enough over the 2020 season that he has good potential, but lacks great control on the mound. He’s a unit and has a great changeup, but the crazy flying fastballs have got to get under control.
This season could also potentially be the first time we see Forrest Whitley up in the majors. Astros fans have been giddy about this kid for what seems like a lifetime, and maybe Whitley is finally healthy (physically and mentally) enough to be in Minute Maid and be the pitcher all fans have dreamt of. If you ask me, we’ll see Whitley in the majors at some point during the season, but it may not be until September call ups.
The last route the Astros and Click could take is getting a good starter out of free agency. We’re in the first week of spring training and Jake Odorizzi and Cole Hamels are still available. Odorizzi is 30-years-old so he probably doesn’t want just a one year deal, but the later it gets maybe he’d be more willing for a prove it deal as opposed to a longer, more secure contract. Hamels only played one game last year and is 37-years-old. Both of those are kind of alarming, but I believe in Brent Strom’s coaching abilities more than I do most things in my life. Hamels could fill that starting lefty role as long as he’s not expensive and stays healthy.
As I wrote earlier, I think the Astros will stay within the organization more than they will look to trade or sign for another starting pitcher. I can’t say I fully believe in this front office because they haven’t really done anything to win or lose my trust yet, so with this potential move or non-move that could be where I start with that trust. There’s also a possibility that Framber is going to be just fine and we’ll see him start pitching this summer. Who knows, baseball is fluky sometimes.