Astros Rotation Depth Is Being Put to the Ultimate Test

As if the season hadn't already been tough enough, the Astros have not one, but two starters having elbow surgery this week. Where does that leave them as they look to get back in the AL West race?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 31: (L-R) Cristian Javier #53 of the Houston Astros, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, Framber Valdez and Hunter Brown before playing the Cleveland Guardians at Minute Maid Park on July 31, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Healthy starting pitching and wins have been hard to come by this year for the Houston Astros. The team that most – including me – picked to win the AL West yet again, have gotten off to a horrendous start to the season and find themselves with a record of 28-35.

Starting pitching has been thin all season as many starters such as Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez have battled injuries of their own. But the news this week has simply been brutal.

First came the report that Cristian Javier was going to need season ending Tommy John surgery. Then on Wednesday it was reported that Jose Urquidy will be requiring elbow surgery as well. It has not yet been confirmed that Urquidy’s surgery will be of the Tommy John variety.

Urquidy hasn’t pitched this season for the Astros, but the team hoped that he would be able to provide some depth when he did return. Javier has dealt with his own issues and has started seven games for Houston.

Ad – content continues below

Future of Javier and Urquidy with the Astros

Not only are these injuries gut punches for this year, but they will more than likely be big blows to next season as well. If in fact both pitchers indeed are having Tommy John surgery, they will more than likely not be able to contribute for the Astros until August of next season. That is, if their rehab goes as planned.

Javier is under contract through the 2027 season, so while it is rough not having him now at least he will more than likely be able to pitch a few more seasons for Houston when healthy. This might not be the case for Urquidy.

Urquidy will become a free agent at the end of next season (’25). He is on the books this year for $3.75 million and is arbitration eligible for next year. With the likelihood that he will miss most of the 2025 season, there are one of two probable outcomes.

The first one is that the Astros sign him to a multi-year contract – likely just two or three years – and backload it so that the majority of the cash outlay will be paid when he is healthy. The second, very real scenario is that Houston opts to non-tender Urquidy, meaning that his time with the club would come to an end.

Where does the Astros rotation stand now?

For right now the Houston rotation is solid and pitching better than it has all year. That is the good news. The bad news is that there are no viable backup plans for any new injuries or bumps along the way.

Houston’s number one starting pitching prospect, Spencer Arrighetti has already been called up and there are little reinforcements left in the farm system. Arrighetti was hit in the leg by a batted ball on Tuesday and had to leave his start an inning later with the left calf contusion. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but with few depth options these type injuries can become nightmares for the Astros.

Ad – content continues below

Houston Astros Rotation
1. LHP Framber Valdez
2. RHP Justin Verlander
3. RHP Ronel Blanco
4. RHP Hunter Brown
5. RHP Spencer Arrighetti

Depth is the issue now for the Astros. Well, depth and the teams current win loss record. There is help coming in the form of Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. The problem is Garcia is targeting a return around the All-Star break with McCullers the first of August.

With the team currently seven games under .500 they will have to get that turned around in the next six to eight weeks or it won’t matter that more pitchers are on the way. In fact, if the Astros are still scuffling in the standings, there is a large chance that the club will take it’s time with both Garcia and McCullers and not push them back too quickly.

With these new injuries, can the Astros make the playoffs?

With the offensive weapons and arms that are healthy, it is hard to think that the Astros aren’t going to get on a heater and propel themselves up the AL West standings. But it is also hard to imagine a team making it through this many injuries and still being able to come out on the other side a winning team.

If any team can do it, it is the Astros. The next month and a half are going to be do or die time for the club. GM Dana Brown has repeatedly said that they are not going to be sellers, and that might be true. But if they don’t find a way to win with the limited number of arms that are remaining their historic playoff run could come to an end.