The Astros have battled injuries in their starting rotation, but 61 games into the season, still have an embarrassment of riches in the pitching department.
Justin Verlander is a New York Met, Lance McCullers Jr. hasn’t thrown a single pitch, Luis Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery and José Urquidy hasn’t thrown a pitch since April 30th.
Their bullpen has seen some struggles it didn’t face last season. Rafael Montero has lost any ability to get outs in the eighth inning and Ryne Stanek has followed up his franchise record 1.15 ERA 2022 season with a 4.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.
Yet amidst the injury losses and the regression of previously lights out arms, Houston still leads the MLB with a 3.25 team ERA. Do they need to trade for another arm with that performance?
For the stretch run in October, yes. And a very under the radar name could be exactly what they need. The Astros should call the Kansas City Royals for Scott Barlow.
Barlow is a reliever for the Royals with a 3.52 ERA this season and a career 3.14 ERA. His Statcast page is littered with red. And he’s a proven leverage arm, holding opponents to a .230 batting average and .679 OPS in high leverage spots.
Barlow has great swing and miss stuff, throwing his slider 41% of the time and curve 31% of the time on the way to 12.9 K/9.
Barlow is in year two of arbitration, so the Astros would have him next season, which is very important with both Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek in walk years.
The Astros rode Montero, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris and Ryan Pressly to a World Series last year. Their postseason performance was legendary.
Abreu, Neris and Pressly are still elite relievers. Montero has regressed back to his pre-Houston days.
And for as great as Maton’s counting stats have been on the season, most of his work has been done in low leverage situations. He’s allowed a .333 average and .833 OPS in high leverage spots this season. For his career, opponents hit .264 with a .738 OPS in high leverage spots on Maton.
The Astros need a fourth arm that can get leverage outs this October. Montero isn’t going to get the job done and hasn’t shown any signs of gaining form. Stanek still walks too many batters to be trusted in October. And Maton isn’t a proven arm in the highest leverage of spots.