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Astros: Four free agent starting pitchers who could be fits

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers in the first inning against the Washington Nationals in game four of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 07, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers in the first inning against the Washington Nationals in game four of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 07, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 20: Rick Porcello #22 of the Boston Red Sox pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 20, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 20: Rick Porcello #22 of the Boston Red Sox pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on September 20, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Rick Porcello

The Astros already have two Cy Young Award winners in the rotation in Verlander and Greinke, with Verlander now being the reigning winner. Why not add a third to the mix in Porcello?

Granted, Porcello’s 22-win season in 2016 is an outlier. He’s a durable innings eater at this point, and his ceiling doesn’t go much higher than that. He’s made no fewer than 27 starts in every season since 2009, though his career 4.36 ERA makes him more of a mid-rotation guy.

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His 2019 season was more of a back-of-the-rotation one, as he finished with an unsightly 5.52 ERA for the Red Sox, though he still managed a winning record at 14-12. The numbers he put up this year can certainly be improved upon, as this was the first time he’d finished a season with an ERA over 5.00.

One thing that would appeal to the Astros are his Statcast numbers. He’s exhibited high spin rates on four of his five pitches, with his changeup being the exception. He’s also thrown a lot of sinkers, which the Astros would probably have him shift to more four-seam fastballs.

However, his four-seamer only averages around 91 mph, so he doesn’t have the elite velocity that Cole and Verlander have. His curveball, which has exceptionally high spin, was only his fourth-most used pitch the past three seasons. The Astros would probably have him throw more curves and sliders and use his four-seamer more selectively.

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That’s a lot of uncertainty, but it’s worth a shot. Coming off such a rough year, Porcello, who turns 31 next month, could probably be had on a one-year deal to rebuild his value and hit free agency again next year. MLB Trade Rumors pegs him for a one-year, $11 million deal, which is a worthwhile gamble to see if the Astros could help reverse his fortunes.

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