Astros slow start has some wondering if adding Dallas Keuchel would help solidify the rotation

Is Houston good or do the Astros need more Dallas in their life?

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Astros fans know the team is not off to the start they wanted or expected, but there is no need to push the panic button. It's a long season, 162 games to be exact and there is going to be plenty of ups and downs. The bad news has been the teams' inability to get key hits with runners in scoring position, as well as struggling to put together big innings that break close games open and build momentum in close games. The starting pitching, for the most part, has been pretty good and is only going to get better. It's fairly typical for pitchers to start slow and work out the kinks with every start in the first month of the season. As they continue to develop new pitches they added to their repertoire in spring training, fine-tune their control locating pitches and stretch out their endurance and arm strength, things will only get better.

Pen pals

Justin Verlander has not been as sharp as he would like in the early going this season

Justin Verlander pitches Game 1. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The bullpen has been strong and the 8th and 9th inning assignments are a virtual lock with Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna looking to be lights out if they get the ball with a lead. So a few tough losses on the road to start the season are nothing to worry about as this team is too good and too talented to stay down for an extended period of time.

Smart roster management

A.J. Hinch and Roberto Osuna

Roberto Osuna has solidified the back of the Astros bullpen

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Jeff Luhnow and his staff have done an outstanding job managing salaries and extending players on the roster that have outperformed their contract and have proven to be worthy of a fair deal that locks them up for the foreseeable future. The savvy GM has also avoided the temptation of overpaying for talent that may not be as good as what they once were, even if those players were proven veterans that contributed to the teams' recent success, including helping to guide them to their first-ever World Series victory. Evan Gattis, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel were important cogs in the well-oiled machine that steamrolled to Houston's first baseball title and will always be remembered for all they did while in an Astros uniform.

Adios, Charlie

Charlie Morton Astros Houston Astros/Facebook

Gattis is still unsigned and there isn't really room for him on the roster with the addition of Michael Brantley and another year of Tyler White and Tony Kemp. Morton got a great deal from Tampa Bay for more money than the Astros were willing to give and with uncertainty about his arm after a few flare-ups last season, the smart move was to thank him for all he did here and wish him well with his future with the Rays. The only guy that Luhnow has left the door open for has been Keuchel, allowing him and his agent Scott Boras to test the market and see what offers they could cultivate before deciding on any possible move to bring him back in the fold.

Soft market

Astros Dallas Keuchel, Jeff Luhnow

Jeff Luhnow has options, including bringing Dallas Keuchel back

Composite photo by Jack Brame

So far Dallas hasn't gotten the big, long term deal he coveted when free agency began and the rumored 5 years, $100 million dollar offers that were expected and virtually promised by Boras have not materialized and panic may be settling in. With the regular season in full swing, the clock is ticking and he needs a team and contract for this year, if not for years to come. Pitchers have to pitch and the best way he can prove he is worth the long term commitment he didn't get this offseason is to get back on the bump and impress the decision makers across the league that were too skeptical and leary to open their checkbooks. What better way to do that and ensure he will get ample opportunities to stack up wins and rack up stats, than with a proven team that features a potent offensive lineup, above average defense and a bullpen capable of holding and saving winning opportunities.

Bring him back?

Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel

Would bringing Keuchel back solidify the Astros starting rotation?

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With all that said, as an Astros fan, would you be willing to take the former Cy Young Award winner back and pay him some pretty significant money for one year or a short term deal of 2-3 seasons? He is looking for $17.5 million for this year and is said to be willing to take a little less per season on a long term agreement. Would he be worth the money? Would he bolster the rotation that much, considering what they already have on the roster? Would he be worth the money or would the team be better off waiting to spend and seeing what needs arise as the season rolls on? I tend to think they are good with what they have and can wait to see what they need, but I know there are others out there who think the experience and veteran leadership Kuechel brings to the table are too good to pass up as long as the price is right. What do you think? Should he stay or should he go? After all, it's always good to have options.

The Third Starter

Colin McHugh is all that so far

Collin McHugh/Facebook

I know we're just four starts in and you can't make any assumptions in a baseball season until September but maybe just maybe the Astros have found their third starter and he's been right under our nose the whole time.

This is not something the organization had to realize. They've been on the Colin McHugh train since the offseason began. We fans have been slower on the uptake.

The first rumblings came early in the offseason when the team allegedly went after Nathan Eovaldi then James Paxton. They obviously had a number for each in mind that they wouldn't exceed and they lost out to the Red Sox and Yankees on both.

I for one wanted to see them go after Corey Kluber. I dreamed of a rotation of Verlander, Kluber, Cole and then fill in the gaps. Those three at the top of any rotation is the stuff parades are made of. It wasn't realistic to think the Indians wold trade him to the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year but I could dream anyway.

Can't tell you how many times I've been asked if the Astros would re-sign Dallas Keuchel. My answer every time has been a fervent no. It seems almost inconceivable that a guy who won the Cy Young four years ago and was a number two starter on a World Series team just two years ago is still out of work but he's just not the same dominant guy he was. Not even close. Soft tossing lefties are not in high demand especially ones who are 31 and looking for big money long term deals. His last couple of years have not warranted it. He started 2017 with a 9-0 record. He had shoulder issues and finished the second half with a 5-5 record but more than that, every important stat was worse post all-star break. Maybe that was due to the injury but last year when he was thought to healthy he wasn't much better. He gave up more hits and faced more batters than anyone in the league. His WAR was his second worst since 2013. His K/W was down. His WHIP was up and so on and so on. He's not a top of the rotation guy anymore but wants to be paid like it. The marketplace is telling him it's not going to happen, not unless a good team gets desperate anyway.

In spring training Forest Whitley was all the rave. He looked great and he was ready to come in and assume that role of third starter. One problem: tough to do that from Round Rock and oh by the way he hasn't been all that in his two starts. His second outing on Monday lasted 1 1/3 and he has a 9.95 ERA. No big deal but not something any player wants to look up at on the scoreboard no matter how early in the season. The common thought is that the club will bring him up in June to get that extra year of service. If so it'll be plenty of time for Whitley to get acclimated to the bigs and pitch in some pressure games before the postseason. He's got top of the rotation stuff and could eventually be the ace here but when he does get here he's going to have prove that he's good enough to be the third starter on this staff because Colin McHugh won't relinquish that without a fight.

For whatever reason I just don't believe we've bought into McHugh as a big time starter. Maybe it's because of how he looks. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with his looks but it's not what an overpowering athlete is in 2019. Verlander and Cole look the part, McHugh not so much. But looks can be deceiving. Since he's joined the Astros he's had a winning record every year. He's 57-31. He's had a 19 win season. Some 3rd starters never do that. After going 48-28 over 4 seasons as a starter he was asked to come out of the bullpen and responded with what could have and maybe should have been an all-star season.

One big question coming into this season was whether or not McHugh could pitch deep into games after a year in the pen. He went 3 innings twice all of last season. If he couldn't it would certainly tax a bullpen that looks weaker without him and Brad Peacock. So far though he's gone six innings in 3 of his 4 starts. That could get better but A.J. may have some of the same doubt about him that we do. If your name is Verlander or Cole, A.J. will leave you in until you think you're done. If your name isn't Verlander or Cole he takes you out when he thinks you're done.

It's a long season and there are a bunch of starts left but McHugh has allayed some of the fears many of us had this offseason. He certainly looks the part of a 3rd starter on a championship team so far.


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