Previously on Astros County...
Now it's time to look at pitcher first basemen options, based on MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agents and Predictions article. I would like to reiterate that we're only looking at free agents based on the interest identified by MLB Trade Rumors.
We'll start at first basemen, because that's the first name to pop-up.
Edwin Encarnacion - At the end of last article we had about $14.5MM to spare. Signing Edwin Encarnacion would likely blow up signing several free agents as he's predicted to sign with the Red Sox $23MM annually. It was pointed out that I was too focused on handedness when looking at free agents. And that's fair, but I also think shouldn't be overlooked. If they ignore handedness in the offseason, I'm sure we'll be writing and reading articles about how the Astros lineup isn't balanced enough. Blah, blah, blah. Handedness aside, Encarnacion is 33 years old and should probably be in the designated hitter role at this point in his career. Still he'd add some above average offense to the Astros lineup at first base. Something we haven't seen much of in a while at that position. I don't see a great fit, but hey I wouldn't mind seeing him walk the parrot in a Houston uniform.
Luis Valbuena - He'll be 31 next season. MLB Trade Rumors has him to the Brewers for $7MM annually. He'd fit nicely into the budget and would have the versatility to play third or first base. He can certainly be a frustrating player to watch, but when he's on he's a lot of fun. The question is if he'll be the hitter that was having a career year before going down with an injury or the average hitter he's been over his career. Average production at first would be an improvement for the Astros. I wouldn't be upset to see him resign with the Astros.
If the Astros want to upgrade at first the more likely chance is via trade.The Astros have a lot of young talented options for the rotation. Chris Devenski and Michael Feliz are too such options. Here are the potential free agents that could help anchor the rotation in 2017 (I get to drop my handeness fetish here).
Jeremy Hellickson - Entering his age 30 season, he had a career year for the Phillies. Posting a 3.2 WAR in 189 innings. He's predicted to pitch for the Rangers (boo!) at $15MM annually. Hellickson has a qualifying offer attached to him this year, unless things change with the CBA. Meaning, if the Astros sign him they'll lose their top pick in the 2017 draft. Considering they're at the backend of the round, maybe not a bad thing. He'll provide the rotation with innings and a sub four ERA.
Rich Hill - After pitching 195 innings in 2007 for the Cubs, Hill struggled to stay healthy. Over the next nine season he would fail to reach even 60 innings pitched with stops in Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles (Anaheim), and New York. This season he pitched 110 1/3 innings for Oakland and Los Angeles. Next season will be his age 37 season. He's predicted to sign with the Yankees for about $17MM annually. He's a left-handed sexy strikeout pitcher which explains the high price tag for a guy who is old and has struggled to stay healthy.
Jason Hammel - 34 years old next year. He's predicted to go to the Braves for $14MM annually. He's been a sub four ERA guy the last few years with the Cubs. Over his career he's been in the mid-four ERA range. He would be a solid edition for the backend of the rotation.
Travis Wood - Previously a starter, he's spent the last couple years in the Cubs bullpen. He is left-handed, which would fill the Astros need for a left-hander in the bullpen. He could also be turned back into a starter. Entering his age 30 season, he is predicted to sign with the Marlins for $7MM annually. He's a flyball pitcher with a four ERA over 900 innings.
Charlie Morton - He just turned 33 (a belated Happy Birthday!). He's predicted to sign with the Royals for one year at $8MM annually. He's a groundball pitcher with some strikeout ability. If you're looking for an under-the-radar sign that could bring a nice payoff, this is it.