Astros could shift focus to this pitcher after Blake Snell's deal with the SF Giants

Should the Astros abandon their free agent pursuits and look to address the starting rotation through a trade?
Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) pitches
Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) pitches / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros missed out on signing Blake Snell. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, after spending months on the open market, finally settled for a two-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.

Houston was rumored to be pursuing Snell last weekend, but found his price tag to be a bit too high. Snell's deal with San Fran contains an opt out after the 2024 season, so the Astros could attempt to target the left-hander next offseason.

But Dana Brown's focus should be on the here and now. Injuries have struck the Astros starting rotation, and Joe Espada will open the 2024 season without Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy. Houston's interest in Snell obviously signals the front office sees the need for another starter. While there are some free agent starters remaining, maybe the Astros should focus their attention on Cleveland Guardians starter Shane Bieber.

Astros could shift focus to Shane Bieber after Blake Snell's deal with the SF Giants

Bieber has been the subject of trade speculation all offseason. A former Cy Young Award winner in his own right, Bieber offers more upside than Snell. Bieber is three years younger, and over the past three seasons has only pitched in 12 fewer innings despite 15 fewer starts. Bieber's salary for 2024 is also less than half of the $32 million the Giants committed to Snell for the upcoming season.

If the Astros want to bolster their roster without pushing past the next tier of the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, they could do so by acquiring Bieber. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Astros' estimated payroll is sitting at $258 million. Adding Bieber's $13.1 million salary for 2024 would still keep Houston below the $277 threshold that would push the surcharge from 12% to 42.5%.

If Houston pulls off a trade of this magnitude before the season begins, the Astros could also extend a Qualifying Offer to Bieber after the season to insure some form of compensation if the 28-year-old signs elsewhere in 2025.

Trading for Bieber does not come without risk. The Guardians' ace suffered through elbow discomfort last season and landed on the 60-day IL at one point. Bieber, however, returned to complete his 2023 campaign and has logged 11 innings in three starts this spring while posting a 2.38 ERA.

The Astros' starting rotation has been decimated by injuries

As it stands right now, the Astros' Opening Day rotation features Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, Ronel Blanco, and J.P. France. Even the most optimistic Astros fan is looking at that group of starters with a jaundice eye.

Verlander is beginning the year on IL and is entering his age-41 season. Urquidy was shut down after throwing 43 pitches last Friday, and will not be on the Opening Day roster. The best-case scenario for Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia is a midseason return. The Astros' rotation is shaky at best, and swinging a trade for Bieber could help keep the 'Stros afloat in the competitive AL West.

What would the Astros need to give up in order to trade for Bieber? That's a good question, and maybe one that Brown should be asking Guardians GM Mike Chernoff.

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