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MLB free agency: Astros interested in Yu Darvish

The Astros are looking to add another front-of-the-rotation starter and could target Yu Darvish.

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World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Astros are looking to add another premier starting pitcher this offseason and could target free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Rosenthal also reports that free agent righty Jake Arrieta and Rays right-hander Chris Archer could be potential targets as the Astros look to boost their rotation. With right-hander Dallas Keuchel perhaps preemptively having priced himself out of the Astros’ market by hiring agent Scott Boras over the weekend, Houston could have a major vacancy in their rotation when Keuchel hits the free-agent market next offseason. With Justin Verlander turning 35 in February and scheduled to become a free agent following the 2019 season, the Astros don’t have an established long-term anchor of their rotation (though prospects Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskus could potentially become candidates to fill that role down the road), and adding an elite starter signed to a long-term deal could help solve that issue.

Darvish, 31, would be a curious fit for the Astros, as he posted a 21.60 ERA and 3.30 WHIP while lasting a total of just 3.1 innings in two World Series starts against Houston earlier this year. While he was an All-Star and by most measures still had a very good season in 2017, he wasn’t quite up to his usual ace form, posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 186.2 innings split between the Rangers and Dodgers. Over five major-league seasons, the four-time All-Star has a 3.42 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while averaging over six innings per start.

That strong track record should give teams a fair amount of confidence as they consider signing Darvish to a long-term deal, especially since his fastball velocity has remained in the mid-90s into his early 30s. It could be a different conversation, however, for an Astros team that is set to have a larger payroll than ever before and will need to keep some funds available if they plan to try to retain Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jose Altuve over the next two seasons. In addition, the Astros have a data-driven front office and have generally sought to develop their own talent or to fix the mechanics of veterans like Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh rather than pursuing big-name pitchers, but that all changed when they acquired Justin Verlander in August. It should be interesting to see if they continue to invest big money in their rotation this offseason.