The Houston Astros might have a potential opening in their starting rotation following the news that Justin Verlander signed a contract with the New York Mets in free agency. This leaves Houston without an established ace or a long-term No.1 starter or does it?
Houston Astros: Three Replacements for Justin Verlander
I don’t care what team you are, it’s going to be hard to replace Verlander, especially considering he just won the CY Young award and had a 1.75 ERA over 28 games with 175 innings and 185 strikeouts. Those numbers just aren’t easily replaceable, but as the defending World Series champions, I’m sure they’ll do something to address their rotation.
The Astros have some potential in-house options like No.1 prospect Hunter Brown who had a cup of coffee with the Astros during September and the playoffs. However, it’s not always wise to just rely on unproven young pitchers if you’re trying to win right now. It can pay off, but when you have the ability to spend over 200+ million dollars, the Astros have plenty to spend on a free-agent starter.
No. 1 Replacement: Sign Ross Stripling
Ross Stripling doesn’t get near enough respect for how excellent he pitches, typically due to the fact that he starts and comes out of the bullpen. He’s excellent at either which fits the Astros. In the playoffs, they shrink their rotation and use their elite starters out of the pen. Having Stripling come out of the pen during a critical playoff moment isn’t fair at all. Yet, it would completely deepen their rotation and bullpen.
Stripling is coming off an excellent platform year with the Blue Jays where he appeared in 32 games, 24 starts, and even had a save. He threw 123.1 innings with 111 strikeouts and a 3.01 ERA. That ERA is backed up by the fact he allowed only 20 walks, 49 runs, a 129 ERA+, and a 3.11 FIP.
The 33-year-old was worth 2.7 WAR and with the Astros, he could improve upon his career-high numbers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him potentially be an All-Star after working with the Astros pitching factory. Thanks to his age too, the length of the deal would likely be lower in terms of years which helps the Astros’ long-term payroll outlook.
Spotrac has his market value at over 17 million dollars, far cheaper than Verlander, leaving Houston with plenty of money to continue adding to their dominant team. This just feels like an Astros move by taking an ignored potential great starter and turning him into an elite pitcher.