Houston Astros: 4 free agent starting pitchers the team should still target

Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
2 of 5
Houston Astros
Free agent RHP Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Houston Astros should target. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Player #1: Jeremy Hellickson

After spending his first five seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, Jeremy Hellickson has been more of a journeyman, being able to latch onto to teams that need his services.  I’ve been quite fond of him over the years and here’s an opportunity for the Houston Astros to grasp an arm that’s relatively durable.

Now I use the term durable loosely with Hellickson as he’s never pitched over 200 innings in his career.  He did come close in 2016 with 189.0 in 32 starts for the Philadelphia Phillies, one of his best to date but has not eclipsed that mark since.

The former AL Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove winner is just trying his utmost to find a home and I think the Houston Astros could be a solid fit for him.

But hamstring and wrist injuries mired any progress of Hellickson making an impact in 2018 with the Washington Nationals and he had to be shutdown in the last weeks of this past season because of it.

His 90-mph sinker is still as best as they come along with his change-up at about the same speed, ensuring that his hitters hit grounders and fly balls.  His velocity isn’t necessarily one that will blow you away but his 3.45 ERA and his 1.073 WHIP from 2018 is definitely something not to ignore.

He’s still tactical with his pitches and can still generate outs by ensuring that his batters don’t find a way to get on base.  His 4.22 FIP is about average so I think if Hellickson were out there, he wouldn’t put the team in a compromising situation, especially if the game was on the line.

His K/9 is not quite where I’d like it to be (6.4 in 2018) and it hasn’t been above seven since the 2016 season but I’ll overlook that with my hopes pinned on that trend reversing.

The main thing one would have to worry about with Hellickson is if he’d be able to stay healthy through the course of a season.  It’s certainly possible and I think he could help this ballclub in a positive way.

After earning $17.2 million from the Phillies as well as the Baltimore Orioles — he was traded at the 2017 deadline — Hellickson earned $100K last season with the Nats after he signed a minor-league deal with the team.

There’s no word on if the Nats are still interested in his services but I think the Houston Astros can sign him to a two-year deal circling around $5 million or so.  It’s cap-friendly and it mitigates risk that he wouldn’t pan out.

Hellickson, 31, posted a 5-3 record, a 3.45 ERA, while tossing 65 strikeouts through 91.1 innings pitched — 19 starts in 2018.