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Astros address major weakness, reportedly sign Jake Odorizzi to two-year deal

Chris Cwik
·4-min read

The Houston Astros addressed a major need Saturday. With pitcher Framber Valdez expected to miss significant time due to a finger injury, the Astros signed Jake Odorizzi to shore up their rotation, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The terms of Odorizzi's deal with the Astros are not known at this time. Odorizzi reportedly is inked for two seasons and has a player option.

With the move, Odorizzi — the last major free agent on the market — has finally found a home. Odorizzi, 30, is coming off an abbreviated season in which he threw just 13 2/3 innings for the Minnesota Twins. Odorizzi dealt with numerous injuries during the shortened 60-game season, and posted a 6.59 ERA in just four starts.

It was a discouraging year for Odorizzi, who took a major step forward in 2019. A jump in velocity led to a career-high 27.1 percent strikeout rate for Odorizzi, who posted a 3.59 ERA over 159 innings. That performance was good enough to send Odorizzi to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.

Getting Odorizzi back to his 2019 level will be key for the Astros, who desperately need pitching depth after losing Justin Verlander to injury last season and Valdez to a finger injury this spring. While Odorizzi is coming off a poor season, there's hope he can return to the success he experienced in 2019. His strong 2019 was fueled by a new training program, which saw him refine his mechanics and use weighted balls.

It's unclear whether Odorizzi worked at the same training facility this winter, but he's still a fan of the methods he learned there.

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Even if Odorizzi can't recapture his 2019 success, he should give the Astros 100+ innings with — at the very least — a league-average ERA.

Jake Odorizzi posted an All-Star season in 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Jake Odorizzi posted an All-Star season in 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Astros scrambling after losing Framber Valdez

The move comes just days after the Astros lost Valdez to a finger injury. The team hasn't officially said how long Valdez will be out, but reports suggest he could miss the entire 2021 MLB season.

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The Astros are still waiting on a second opinion regarding Valdez's injury. The fact that the team signed Odorizzi could indicate Valdez will miss significant time.

On top of Valdez's injury, the Astros have multiple pitchers currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols. That list includes rotation candidates like Christian Javier and Luis Garcia. The team's top pitching prospect, Forrest Whitley, is currently dealing with a sore arm, temporarily taking him out of the rotation competition.

Astros still have questions in the rotation

Even with Odorizzi, the Astros' rotation is full of uncertainties. With Verlander out, Zack Greinke, 37, takes over as the team's ace. Greinke remained an excellent starter last season, though his age is worrisome. Behind him, the team will rely on Lance McCullers Jr., Odorizzi and Jose Urquidy.

While McCullers and Urquidy have plenty of promise, both players have innings concerns. McCullers has never thrown more than 128 1/3 innings in the majors, while Urquidy topped out at 144 innings over three levels in 2019. Odorizzi has similar concerns, averaging 165 innings between 2014 and 2019.

Those issues may be less of a concern in 2021, as most starting pitchers won't be expected to hit 200 innings after a shortened 2020 season. Signing Odorizzi helps, but the rotation still remains the team's biggest concern entering 2021.

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