Ranking Potential Free Agent Signings for the Astros Headed Into Spring Training
1) Michael Fulmer
Fulmer too has been frequently rumored as a deadline target for the Astros. He carries a 2.89 career ERA as a reliever, but his ability to start could also be an asset for the Astros. In his time in Detroit, Fulmer made 89 starts. For his career, he has a 4.12 ERA as a starter, nothing to write home about.
The hope would be that signing Fulmer enhances the bullpen. But the biggest blow in losing Justin Verlander isn't his ERA, but his ability to eat innings and preserve the bullpen. The Astros rotation is still six-deep, but aside from Framber Valdez, who may be sitting out of the WBC to rest his shoulder after his 2022 workload, no pitcher on their staff has thrown more than Urquidy's 164.1 innings in 2022.
Lance McCullers Jr. threw 162.1 innings in his dominant 2021 season, but ended up with a forearm injury that cost him almost all of 2022.
It is paramount the Astros keep their arms fresh, especially with Hunter Brown still somewhat unproven. Fulmer would be able to throw out of the pen in a leverage role, eat innings as a middle reliver, or start in a pinch. His ability to be deployed as an emergency starter makes him a nice luxury.
As a righty, Fulmer wouldn't come with the previously alluded to inflated salary that Chafin or Hand would bring. Fulmer would make a great deal of sense in Houston at around $6 million AAV.
Again, the Astros current roster is likely what they bring into 2023, but if they are to sign another piece, Michael Fulmer is at worst case a proven insurance option, and best case, solidifies the bullpen even further.