According to Evan Drellich, the Houston Astros are one of about twelve teams that have inquired about free agent starting pitcher Jason Hammel. Is Hammel one of the big pitching free agents? Not by a long shot. Does he fit the Astros price range? FanGraphs is projecting Hammel to receive a 3 year/$27M contract this offseason, so he does fit Houston’s financial constraints. Should the Astros go after the free agent pitcher? Let’s discuss.
Hammel has a career record of 59-70, along with a career ERA of 4.60, which also happens to be his lifetime ERA at Minute Maid Park. Part of the reason for his high ERA at MMP is due to a July 30th start in which he gave up eight in 4 1/3 innings as a member of the A’s. His next start in Houston went much better, when he went seven innings and gave up just one. The numbers surrounding Hammel do not work in his favor. He will give you innings, averaging 183 per season throughout his career, but is that alone worth $9M a season? Not exactly.
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The righty’s ERA with Oakland was inflated due to a bad month of July, which he partially attributed to having to move in the middle of the season, and all of the hassle that surrounds that off the field. The last couple of months of the season, Hammel was very good for the Athletics, posting ERAs of 2.86 and 2.20 in August and September.
Drellich is also reporting that the New York Yankees are one of the twelve teams that has asked about Hammel, so there is money to be had for 32-year old.
The Astros don’t need to sign Jason Hammel. With the $20M they have to work with, the main issue that should be addressed is the bullpen. The Astros ranked last in baseball with a 4.80 reliever’s ERA in 2014. Adding a starter, regardless of talent level, won’t help the Astros in 2015, or beyond, if their bullpen is unable to hold a lead.
With Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Scott Feldman at the top of the rotation, and either Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer, or even Michael Foltynewicz, locking down the 5th spot, the Astros are looking at a starter to plug into the fourth spot in the rotation. Better options can be had than Jason Hammel at $9M/season.