Astros: examining the benefits of optioning Cristian Javier

As the Houston Astros lost their second consecutive game of the season, the Oakland A’s walked away with their first series. The bats began to cool off for Houston, as it was one of those days where you couldn’t build much momentum. While Jose Urquidy had a tough second half to his six inning start, the right-hander was followed by Brandon Bielak, who also didn’t have the best outing, as this looked like the opposite of their combined shutout on April 3.

In the midst of the third loss of the season, the Astros optioned Cristian Javier to the alternative training site, while also placing him on the taxi squad. This looks like it came as a surprise, while the right-hander hasn’t had the worst start to the 2021 season. Although being beneficial down the stretch, Javier being optioned comes with possible value.

As Javier was optioned, the Astros are looking at the season as a whole.

Manager Dusty Baker explained how the Astros are going to run a four man rotation with the two upcoming off days in the next ten game stretch. As Javier looks to have at least two starts in Corpus Christi or in Round Rock, the right-hander is needing to build up endurance, while this has been his biggest struggle progressing through the season.

As a rookie last year, Javier did have a solid season while averaging around 4.5 innings per appearance, which earned him third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Once the postseason came around, the young gun wasn’t highly relied on for longer outings, but more as a reliever going 2-4 innings once the Astros reached the ALDS and ALCS.

While having a high ceiling, it makes the most sense the Astros are looking to optimize the amount of innings Javier can get without burning him in the bullpen. His arm is definitely more valuable than players like Luis Garcia, Bryan Abreu, Nivaldo Rodriguez and Brandon Bielak, but these players are better suited for the bullpen. As Jake Odorizzi makes his way to the rotation in lieu of Javier, Javier will be the fifth starter once the team brings him back.

Although it makes the most sense that the right-hander is down for only ten days, the Astros could be looking to manipulate service time and save money in the end. While they start to burn the first of his three options, the organization would benefit in future arbitration and save money by doing this, as 2021 could possible not count as a year of service. While this is all speculation, it could be hidden value in optioning Javier, as they could benefit on the mound and in their checkbook.

As Javier leaves the 26-man roster, Odorizzi will leave his extended spring training and join the team. In bullpen news, the team sent Austin Pruitt to the 60-day injured list, while adding Pedro Baez back from the COVID IL but immediately placing him on the 10-day IL with right shoulder soreness. Every week seems to bring more news about pitcher injuries, and while I for one was hopeful of Pruitt returning sooner than later, this wasn’t the best news to hear.

Injuries will come and go, but with an offense cooling down, this isn’t something to totally worry about. It does impact the team significantly, but it is early in the season. While Pedro Baez, Enoli Paredes, Framber Valdez, Justin Verlander, Andre Scrubb, Josh James and Austin Pruitt are not contributing in their needed ways, the Astros will be a threat to every team in the coming months.

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The Astros are now 6-3 on the season, and with the off day on Sunday, a much needed rest will be valuable for a team that started off extremely hot. While battling a few injuries and resting players like Alex Bregman, this team isn’t nearing 100% yet, but once they reach it later this season, they have the opportunity to get deep into October.

While they begin their second series of the home stand against the Detroit Tigers, a possible look at this four man rotation could be Zack Greinke, Jake Odorizzi (replacing Javier), Lance McCullers Jr. and then Jose Urquidy after the off day. As A. J. Hinch makes his return to Minute Maid Park on Monday at 7:10 p.m., Astros’ players said it will be a weird thing to experience, but the World Series Champion should get a standing ovation. Zack Greinke will be dealing against former first overall pick Casey Mize, who could pitch to former first overall pick Carlos Correa.