Monday, January 30, 2012

An exercise in dumpster diving

As we've seen so far this off-season, the only free agency moves the Astros are interested in making right now are on cheap players who have a chance to improve their stock. Jack Cust, Chris Snyder, and Zach Duke were all once considered good, but not great, players and all have seen their value drop in recent seasons due to injury or inexplicable ineffectiveness. Well, the off-season isn't quite over yet, and there are still a few similar players out there waiting for phone calls. Might Jeff Luhnow have a couple more dumpsters to pick through? Looking through our roster and the free agents still out there, I don't know that there's much else on the position player side that is worth looking at. There are a few interesting arms out there, though. Let's see who's still available.

Rich Harden

Rich was once a can't miss future ace, but injuries have prevented him from reaching that potential. While he'll likely never be a 200 inning #1 starter, he may still be useful. His most recent health woes led to a dramatic decrease in velocity, as the once fearsome 95 mph heater became a much more hittable 90 mph. However, his velocity is back on the rise as he once again struck out over a batter an inning in 2011, and his K/BB ratio nearly matched his career best. His xFIP in 2011 was as good as it's been since 2008 when he was a 4.5 win pitcher in just 148 innings. Last season he made just $1.5M and the perception of his performance last year is below what his peripheral stats would indicate. And he's just 30 years old.

Chris Young

Chris is one that I think is not likely to regain his form. A former all-star with San Diego, his injuries have more significantly impacted his career. He's thrown just 222 innings since 2008, and his walk rate, which was never outstanding, jumped to 4.5 per 9 innings. Typically an increase walk rate following injury indicates some instability in the shoulder, which proves out here as Chris went down last May with a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder, requiring surgery. Chris will turn 33 this season.

Brandon Webb

Most baseball fans know Brandon's recent plight. An absolute stud of a pitcher in 2008, shoulder injuries have allowed him to throw only 16 innings at any level since. Brandon will also turn 33 this season and there is so little information to be gleaned from his agent's reports that Webb's arm is "strong and loose." Brandon might be the closest there is right now to a baseball lottery ticket.

Hong-Chih Kuo

Kuo's affliction has nothing to do with injury. After three straight seasons as a dominant bullpen piece for the Dodgers, Kuo went down with what is described as an anxiety disorder. Even after returning it was evident things just weren't right with Kuo. In recent memory there are two examples of pitchers dealing with similar issues. First there's Zach Greinke; needless to say he's been able to keep his anxiety at bay to become one of the best pitchers in the game. On the other hand is Dontrelle Willis. Willis is young enough to pull it back together, but so far his road back to effectiveness has been long and difficult with moments of hope followed by periods of poor performance. Kuo is just 30 and has yet to sign after being non-tendered this off-season.

No comments: