Astros: Robbie Ray could be trade candidate after Bumgarner signing

Could the Astros trade for Arizona southpaw Robbie Ray?

This MLB offseason has been much more active than the past two, and there’s been more than one surprise so far. I didn’t see Madison Bumgarner ending up in Arizona, but he ended up signing with the D’backs for five years and $85 million. What does this have to do with the Astros? Well, it means Robbie Ray could be on the move.

There’s already speculation that the signing of MadBum means the Snakes will move Ray, and the Astros could very well have interest. They’ve been rumored to have had interest in him in the past, but ended up getting Zack Greinke at the trade deadline instead while Ray stayed put.

It’s no secret the Astros need starting pitching, and the left-handed Ray would certainly be a nice add to the rotation picture. They couldn’t afford to pay a premium for a top free agent, but trading for Ray could be easier for them to stomach from a salary standpoint.

Can’t Say It’s Likely

Just because he may be available doesn’t mean the Astros are going to end up getting him, though. In fact, it doesn’t seem overly likely at this point for a few reasons. There will be plenty of competition if Ray is on the block, as nearly all of the top tier starting pitchers are now off the free agent market.

Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Cole Hamels, Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Bumgarner have all agreed to deals. The only real impact starters left are Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, and there are plenty of teams still looking for rotation help. The Astros would have to outbid them to get a deal done.

What’s more, the Diamondbacks are likely to put a price tag on Ray that’s more in line with a No. 2 starter, while Ray’s recent numbers don’t really justify such a designation. He broke out in 2017 with a 15-5 record and 2.89 ERA in 28 starts, but his numbers have trended in the wrong direction since then.

His strikeout rate has remained consistently high, but his hit and walk rates have jumped since his All-Star campaign. He allows too many baserunners and walks too many hitters, which causes his pitch count to inflate and prevents him from pitching deep into games. He averaged around 5.28 innings per start in 2019, which is actually a tick up from what he averaged in 2018.

He just turned 28, so youth is on his side, but he only has one year left before free agency. It doesn’t seem likely the Astros would want to give up significant prospects for one year of a player who has been a mid-rotation arm at best, in addition to paying his projected $10.8 million salary.

The Astros have Lance McCullers Jr., whose innings will be limited, and rookie Jose Urquidy penciled into the rotation, and it’s highly unlikely they get 200 frames out of either of them. The departures of Cole and Miley leave a lot of innings unaccounted for, so the team would be better served adding a starter who can chew up a large chunk of those.

While I do expect the Astros to at least kick the tires on Ray, it seems like they would be better served letting another team overpay for one year of his services.