The Astros won the 2022 World Series on the backs of an unrivaled pitching staff. They had incredible depth in both their starting rotation and their bullpen. The world champs proved the old adage true: you can never have too much pitching.
After Justin Verlander left in free agency, Lance McCullers started the season on IL, Luis Garcia was lost for the year to Tommy John and José Urquidy went on the IL with a shoulder injury, the Astros depth is being tested early.
Could they be players closer to the deadline for another starter? If so, might Eduardo Rodriguez of the Tigers be an option?
Rodriguez is off to the best start of his career early in this season, going 4-4 with a 2.19 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He is in the 66th percentile or higher in almost all Statcast metrics but whiff rate. And he's doing it for a Detroit Tigers team that is by no means good or ready to compete, but because they play in the hapless AL Central, sit two games out of the division lead.
At 23-25, the Tigers aren't actually title contenders, but they could be a pest down the stretch to try and steal the playoff bid for the AL Central division champs. If they are sill hovering around .500 at the deadline, might they buy?
Or with an aging Miguel Cabrera on his farewell tour, do they sell to compete next year as the Orioles did at the last deadline?
If they opt to sell, the line of suitors for Eduardo Rodriguez will be long. Rodriguez is getting paid $15.4 million through 2026, but has an opt-out at the end of this season. Heading into free agency at 30, it's likely he would opt-out coming off of a big season to try and cash in one final time.
So let's ask the question with deadline rental season approaching?
Are the Astros a fit for Eduardo Rodriguez?
First, can they pay him? The Astros can afford Rodriguez without going over the tax threshold, and Jim Crane has shown a willingness to pay the tax in order to wield a team that can contend. Without Luis Garcia, Rodriguez could be a great option to slot behind Hunter Brown in the rotation.
A rotation of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Eduardo Rodriguez, Hunter Brown and Lance McCullers Jr. looks pretty nice heading into October.
Speaking of October, can he perform when the lights are bright? Rodriguez has made 11 starts for his career in the playoffs. In his 22.2 innings of work, Rodriguez has posted a playoff ERA of 6.35. The Astros are a World Series or bust team. Whether they win 90 games or 120, all is for naught if it doesn't end in a thrid gold pennant being unveiled above the Union Station train tracks.
His lack of playoff success could be cause for concern, though his 1.05 WHIP is somewhat indicative that his ERA is slightly inflated.
And lastly, what would he cost?
With next year's free agent class being so thin, deadline rentals will likely come at a premium. Teams will be lining up for the services of a piece like Rodriguez. He will likely require quite a haul, and with the Astros farm system finally beginning to reload, do they need to part with some of their better prospects for an arm?
Rodriguez would be a nice arm to have down the stretch of the regular season, especially in case of another injury, but he will likely cost to much for Houston to justify pulling the trigger.
His underwhelming October performances and his out-of-body performance in a potential contract walk year should give the Astros pause. Yes, he'd be an asset. But Brandon Bielak and JP France have done as much as they can be asked for when their turn in the rotation arises.
Once Urquidy and McCullers return around the break, the Astros will have some depth back, and won't need to overspend on an over-performing deadline rental. Other better options may come to the surface as the time comes closer.