The Houston Astros have found themselves with an injury bug to start the season. From the mound to the field, a large percentage of the 40-man roster has seen time on the injured list including the COVID-19 one.
The hope of Josh James and Pedro Baez making their way back to the bullpen this month is currently slipping away into July. Baez isn’t throwing off a mound yet, while a positive COVID-19 case along with a shoulder injury has kept him waiting on the 60-day IL. In the case of James, the right-hander was anticipating to return mid-June, but with a hamstring setback occurring in conditioning, the timetable is slightly adjusted.
These two have been deemed “deadline acquisitions” for the Astros, while they are still under team control. General manager James Click has stated that the organization is looking to in-house talent to boost the status of the bullpen, but could we see other roster moves in the coming month?
With certain Astros nearing returns, here are three dark horse roster moves worth a look.
Option Robel Garcia rather than Garrett Stubbs
The return of backup catcher Jason Castro is right around the corner. The left-hander hit the IL with a hamstring injury last month in surprising fashion. As a corresponding move, Garrett Stubbs was recalled, who has started three games in his absence.
Carrying three catchers isn’t something many teams are accustomed to, but with expanded rosters in 2020, the Astros did it under manager Dusty Baker. The rosters aren’t expanded anymore, but Stubbs is not just a catcher. The 28-year-old added a second baseman’s glove and outfielder’s glove to his arsenal over the past two seasons.
This wide range of versatility isn’t found in Taylor Jones and Robel Garcia, but with Aledmys Diaz out an extended period of time, we aren’t even seeing much of Garcia. Jones has taken more of a role as a utility man in the past week, as he also looks for more at bats. All three of these players have bounced to Triple-A this season, so why not keep Stubbs up since he offers a glove in the infield, outfield and behind the dish?
Add a minor-league pitcher to the 40-man
The 40-man roster holds three pitchers that won’t be making their way to the major leagues again this season. One is Forrest Whitley, who should not move to the 60-day IL due to the fact it will start his service time clock. The other two are Kent Emanuel and Tyler Ivey, who recently broke the news on his nagging injury to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Emanuel’s roster spot looks to be where James will land, but who takes Ivey’s now?
The Astros could wait it out until injured pitchers return, but the bullpen has only improved because the rotation has been stellar. Joe Smith and Enoli Paredes are both on the IL now, and with these two spots in Emanuel and Ivey, they have the room to add a minor-league pitcher to the 40-man for more options. One player that comes to mind is right-hander Brett Conine, who has a 1.88 ERA through five games this season.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Trade a pitcher
MLB.com released their trade chips for each team, and among those were 40-man roster pitchers for the Astros. The outlet pointed to pitching prospects as the best option to go with Jairo Solis, Peter Solomon and Ivey being the pieces.
This would not only free open a 40-man seat but could also bring in a trustworthy reliever to help with a postseason push. Ivey might not be a candidate anymore, while Solis is in the same boat. It will be interesting if the Astros break their ground and go after a reliever, but some fans are also calling for Jake Odorizzi to be traded, which doesn’t seem too plausible.
Sure, he hasn’t pitched near his ceiling and the Astros do have six other starters in contention. But with his recent struggles and contract tacked on, not many teams will be begging to take him.
Lance McCullers Jr.’s move back to the roster should come on the day he first pitches again, as the Astros would save any other feasible arms in the process. They have done this before with Odorizzi and Framber Valdez.