Here's what we know about Jerome Williams' contract situation (courtesy of Evan Drellich):
*Williams will make a guaranteed $2.1m.
*There is the possibility of an additional $1m in incentives - $100,000 for 12, 15, 20, 25, and 30 games started, as well as $100,000 for reaching 120IP, and apparently $100,000 for every additional 10IP up to 210IP.
*That last part mathematically makes no sense.
What is also means is that somebody is going to have to get optioned off the 40-Man roster. We can presume that it will be a pitcher. The pitchers currently on the 40-Man roster are:
Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, Kevin Chapman, Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, Jesse Crain, Luis Cruz, Darin Downs, Scott Feldman, Josh Fields, Lucas Harrell, Dallas Keuchel, Chia-Jen Lo, David Martinez, Collin McHugh, Brett Oberholtzer, Rudy Owens, Brad
Peacock, Chad Qualls, Raul Valdes, Alex White, Jerome Williams, Asher
Wojciechowski, Josh Zeid.
Who is not getting optioned off the roster?
Matt Albers, Anthony Bass, Kevin Chapman, Jarred Cosart, Jesse Crain, Darin Downs, Scott Feldman, Josh Fields, Dallas Keuchel, Chia-Jen Lo, David Martinez, Brett Oberholtzer, Rudy Owens, Brad Peacock, Chad Qualls, Alex White, Jerome Williams, Asher Wojciechowski, and Josh Zeid. Jerome Williams is not getting optioned off the roster, because the point of this exercise is to see who Jerome Williams will replace.
So which players are left?
Jose Cisnero, Paul Clemens, Luis Cruz, Lucas Harrell, Collin McHugh, Raul Valdes.
Jose Cisnero will be 25 in April. He allowed an .826 OPS in 28 games (43.2IP) with 8.5 K/9. He also suffered from a .341 BABIP. Away from Minute Maid Park, Cisnero held opponents to a .678 OPS (.907 at home). He also really only had one bad month in nine July appearances (.300/.447/.567) and two bad outings in August. I think Cisnero stays on the roster because of his youth, and the flashes of decency.
Paul Clemens is what we like to call White Boy Crazy. He'll be 26 next week, and had a very up-and-down year, finishing the season with a 5.40 ERA/1.47 WHIP shuttling between the rotation and the bullpen. Given the moves that have been made, and the sheer number of rotation candidates coming in to camp, I think Clemens - if he survives the Jerome Williams Experience and Spring Training - is headed to the bullpen. He also has options left, so he could get outrighted off the 40-Man and wouldn't have to pass through waivers.
Luis Cruz won't be 24 until September, and also has only reached Double-A for 17IP at the end of 2013. In those 17IP he allowed five hits, four walks, and struck out 21. Cruz isn't getting taken off the roster.
Lucas Harrell will be 29 by the All-Star Break and his struggles are well-documented. After being in the mix for the Imaginary Title of Opening Day Starter, he led the league in walks and losses, and was the target of much angst, consternation, and outright hatred. Harrell is also out of options, so if he was taken off the 40-Man roster, he would first have to pass through waivers.
Collin McHugh will be 27 in June and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in December. So, to be perfectly superficial about this, I can't see the Astros designating McHugh less than two months after they
Raul Valdes is 36 years old, and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in early October. In 35IP for the Phillies in 2013, Valdes gave up 42 hits (but only walked eight) with a 7.46 ERA/1.43 WHIP. He also allowed seven home runs.
Given their youth, I'm guessing Cisnero and Cruz stay. I also think McHugh stays on the 40-Man. Despite my innate distaste for Lucas Harrell, his 2013 season was so incongruous from 2012 that I would be surprised if the Astros cut him loose. And I suppose the same goes for Clemens - valuable in that he can come in for four or five innings after Erik Bedard or Lucas Harrell has already lost the game by the end of the 1st inning.
So I guess I took the long way to end up at the same conclusion as others: Raul Valdes is out.