Astros: Examining a Jake Odorizzi fit after Framber Valdez injury

Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Astros were already perilously thin when it came to starting pitching depth, and then Framber Valdez got hurt. While we don’t know exactly how long he’ll be out, the chances of his being ready on Opening Day appear slim. With that being the case, the team could possibly turn to free agent Jake Odorizzi.

Could the Houston Astros turn to Jake Odorizzi to fill in for Framber Valdez?

Valdez was Houston’s best pitcher in 2020 and was set to play a key role with Justin Verlander out for the year. He may still do that, but he’s probably going to miss the start of the season and could be out several weeks. This is not a good development for a team that will also be without Josh James and Austin Pruitt to open the year.

At this point, Luis Garcia appears to be the next man up, with several other young pitchers, such as Forrest Whitley, in contention as well. But the Astros have no veteran options to take Valdez’s place at this point, and this is a season that will test every team’s depth as pitchers are asked to throw many more innings than they did in 2020.

The Click Connection

GM James Click hasn’t shied away from acquiring players with whom he’s familiar, such as Ryne Stanek and Steven Souza. He could do the same with the top remaining starting pitcher on the free agent market. Odorizzi pitched for the Rays from 2013 to 2017 and compiled a 3.82 ERA in almost 700 innings in that span.

He was an All-Star with the Twins in 2019 when he went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts. He made only four appearances in 2020 due to a few minor injuries, but the soon-to-be 31-year old is by far the best available starter on the market. He’s not an ace by any stretch, but he’s a guy who can settle into the middle of a rotation and make 30 starts.

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Part of the reason he’s still available is his asking price, which has yet to drop even though Spring Training has begun. The Astros may not be willing to meet his rumored $13-15 million annual salary over three years, but the chance to step into a rotation on a contending team could perhaps entice him to take a two-year deal for around $24 million or so. Just my speculation.

Such a deal would give the team a historically durable veteran arm and would also help them deal with the potential losses of Lance McCullers, Zack Greinke and Verlander this offseason. Again, Odorizzi is not an ace, but you can never have too much pitching, especially when it’s a proven commodity like this.

Will the Astros do it? They currently have an estimated $13.8 million of space under the luxury tax threshold, so it’s entirely possible. This is undoubtedly the team’s biggest need. But they could also elect to wait for the full prognosis on Valdez. If he’ll only be out a few weeks, they might decide to have Garcia or someone else make a few starts until Valdez is ready to return.

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Still, there’s no way the team will get by with only five or six starting pitchers this year. They’ll need all hands on deck, and having one proven guy to throw in the mix with a bunch of unproven young arms would be a nice boost. If they’re serious about contending, they’ll need all the help they can get. The Astros should at least kick the tires on Odorizzi.