Houston Astros: building a champion

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Alex Bregman #2 (R) and Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros look on before Game Three of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Alex Bregman #2 (R) and Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros look on before Game Three of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 08: (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images) /

Astros–Key Free Agent Signings

Five of the 25 men on the Astros’ ALCS roster were signed as major league free agents. They comprise 20 percent of the team’s 25-man roster but account for just 14 percent of the total value of those 25 players. Three of the team’s major league free agents are relief pitchers. The two non-relievers are Charlie Morton and Josh Reddick, who also happen to be the two best major league free agents the Astros have on their roster.

RHP Charlie Morton (3.5 WAR)—Morton was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of the 2002 draft. It took him until 2008 to reach the big leagues, but success eluded him in his first three seasons as he put up a 5.98 ERA and 4.80 FIP in 251.3 innings with the Braves and Pirates. He had his best season to date in 2011, but for the most part was a non-descript right-handed pitcher who didn’t strike out enough batters to be anything other than a back-end rotation guy. Through 2016, Morton had a 4.54 ERA and 4.10 FIP in 893 career innings. He also had an uninspiring 16 percent strikeout rate.

The Astros signed Morton as a free agent in November of 2016 and he came out in 2017 looking like a new man. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.36 ERA and 3.53 FIP in 55 starts. He’s struck out 27.7 percent of the batters he’s faced, which ranks 11th among starting pitchers with at least 300 innings over the last two seasons. He’s also beaned batters at a higher rate than any pitcher in MLB history with at least 1000 innings pitched.

OF Josh Reddick (1.8 WAR)—After eight big league seasons with three teams, Reddick signed a free agent deal with the Astros before last season. He was better in his first year in Houston (4.3 WAR) than he was this year, but is still an important part of the team with his left-handed bat and defense in right field. He has two years and $26 million remaining on the four-year contract he signed before last season.

LHP Tony Sipp (1.3 WAR)—Sipp is the lone lefty in the Astros’ bullpen, but his career splits versus right-handed batters and left-handed batters aren’t that different. Righties have hit him at a .216/.309/.409 clip compared to .221/.298/.409 by lefties. He’s been much better against lefties than righties this year, though. Sipp is one of five potential free agents on the Astros’ 25-man roster.

RHP Hector Rondon (0.9 WAR)—Rondon fell out of favor with the Chicago Cubs after having a subpar 2017 season. They let him become a free agent and the Astros signed him last December. He had a 3.20 ERA and 2.79 FIP in 59 innings this season, even taking over the closer’s role after Ken Giles struggled.

When the Astros traded for Osuna in the middle of his 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, Rondon knew his days as the closer were numbered. He pitched well in August, but blew up with a 9.72 ERA in 8.3 innings in the season’s final month.