This offseason should prove to be a busy one for the Astros. General Manager Jeff Luhnow spent the last twelve months stock-piling the farm system and now it’s time to take the next step. If you saw my last article you know that many of the Astros recent acquisitions will need to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being exposed to this December’s Rule 5 Draft. In order to make room for those players the Astros will have to cut ties with some others. Today I will take a look at the pitchers and discuss who may or may not be leaving.
After losing 107 games the Astros are sure to experience quite a bit of turnover, especially among the pitchers. The club ranked 25th in the league in ERA, 26th in bullpen ERA, and 28th in saves. By my count there are only six pitchers on the current 40-man roster that a guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster. Those six are starters Lucas Harrell, Bud Norris, and Jordan Lyles along with relievers Wilton Lopez, Mickey Storey, and Wesley Wright. Rudy Owens, acquired in the Wandy Rodriguez trade, will also remain on the 40-man but could start the season in the minors. That leaves fifteen hurlers whose future with the team will be in question.
Let’s start with those most likely to be gone. Enerio Del Rosario is non-tender candidate number one. An ERA of 9.00 and a 2.158 WHIP in 19 innings should have earned EDR his walking papers. I can’t see any reason why he should still be here. Fernando Abad, in my opinion, is in the same boat. In 2012 the gopher-ballin’ lefty had a 1.652 WHIP in 46 innings. The Astros may not agree but I think Abad has overstayed his welcome.
For me Arcenio Leon, Jorge De Leon, and Chuckie Fick make up the next group of pretty likely to be non-tendered. Leon, 26, has yet to harness his control. De Leon went 2-9 and allowed a .320 average with Lancaster and Fick produced a 1.783 WHIP in 23 big league innings. With several young arms on the horizon these guys aren’t as important to the team’s future.
Edgar Gonzalez and Hector Ambriz also have to be considered vulnerable. The Astros will have to decide by November 23 whether or not they want to offer arbitration to Gonzalez. That decision could depend on their willingness and ability to sign a Free Agent starting pitcher. Regardless, it might not be a bad idea to keep Gonzalez around as a sort of insurance policy. Ambriz wasn’t bad in 18 appearances with the Astros last year, striking out more than a batter per inning and could be viewed as a serviceable arm out of the bullpen.
This last group of hurlers is a little tougher to judge and any of them could go either way. Fernando Rodriguez had a pretty bad year (1.450 WHIP and 5.37 ERA) The Astros gave F-Rod plenty of chances but he proved to be consistently bad. I say it’s time to move on. Jose Valdez could prove to be the next F-Rod. We will only find out if the Astros decide to keep him. Both pitchers have excellent stuff but neither has been able to elevate his game to the level necessary to stay in the big leagues.
Rhiner Cruz and Xavier Cedeno are another pair of intriguing arms. A Rule 5 draftee, Cruz had to spend all of 2012 on the big league roster. This year he will have minor league options and should be headed to AAA. Cedeno could get a chance to stay on as a situational lefty.
Lefty reliever Sergio Escalona and right-handed starter Kyle Weiland will both be attempting to return from serious arm injuries. One would think these two will be given a chance, but you never know. Paul Clemens and Dallas Keuchel are the most likely to stick around. Both hope to be competing for the fifth starter’s job in Kissimmee when Spring Training rolls around. Neither should be considered a favorite to win that spot.
We may have seen the last of a few of these players in an Astros uniform. But some of them will be back. No team can lose more than two players to the Rule 5 Draft and even if a player is left off the 40-man roster and becomes a Free Agent, the possibility still exists that he could still sign with the team later.