This offseason the Houston Astros made several acquisitions in free agency. One of the most puzzling moves was signing Jerome Williams. Prior to joining the organization, Williams had two seasons in which his ERA was better than average. The rest of his big-league experience has seen him struggle to limit hits and therefore eliminate runs.
Obviously it is beneficial to have a stable veteran presence to rely on from time to time. But Williams is far from fulfilling that role. The biggest issue in designating him for assignment is likely his contract. With a $2.1 million beginning salary, there is likely a sustainable portion left for the Astros to cover. Honestly I would rather them pay for him to be off the team and letting a young guy get some experience.
The in-season acquisitions of Tony Sipp and Kyle Farnsworth have tremendously helped the bullpen. This is another issue that is preventing the Astros from releasing Williams. Due to Jerome’s experience as both a starter and reliever in the majors, he is available for long relief in most games.
Chad Qualls, an offseason signing, has been dominant since a rough outing in Oakland to begin the season. Together the three veterans of Sipp, Farnsworth, and Qualls are good for the support many young arms need. Josh Zeid has been brilliant in his most recent recall. Darin Downs, a waiver claim, is making the analytic team that Jeff Luhnow brought in look very smart.
So with all of these successes how is it that Jerome Williams is still on this roster? The team is now 7-15 in games in which he has appeared following the depressing loss to David Price and the Rays on Father’s Day.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of Williams’ use is that he has begun to work in high leverage situations. Drellich’s tweet makes it very difficult to understand how Jerome is being used in such important at-bats late in the game.
I think the only reason that is really keeping Williams on this team is the number of guys on the disabled list. Matt Albers is rehabbing in Florida along with Anthony Bass. Jesse Crain has yet to throw to hitters but seems likely to return at the beginning of July. Help is certainly on the way.
For now I think it is time that the Astros release Williams and his 5+ ERA. The question is really who would take his place? Among players on the 40-man roster, perhaps Brett Oberholtzer could rejoin the major league team. But with two off days this week, there really is no need in bringing a six man rotation into the mix. David Martinez had a rough debut with the Astros last season, posting a 7.15 ERA though in just 11 2/3 innings.
If Williams were to be DFA’d a 40-man roster spot would open up. Perhaps the best option is to give Nick Tropeano some innings out of the bullpen. There are several pitchers in AAA that are currently deserving of a promotion. Tropeano is due to start Monday night for the Redhawks and would be fresh to get his major league debut Tuesday night against the Washington Nationals. Tropeano currently has a 4-4 record with a 2.31 ERA for the Redhawks this season.
There is also Mike Foltynewicz ready, but he pitched on Saturday night, and Jake Buchanan is scheduled to start Sunday night.
The biggest obstacles in releasing Williams are the payroll implications and finding a long-relief pitcher. But with many guys due to come of the disabled list soon between Bass, Albers, and Crain a move should be made now.