Astros Add Rondon to Pen
Champs Talking To Darvish

Rondon: Closer experience
(c) Chicago Tribune
Last Friday, the Astros made a surprise move by signing righthander Hector Rondon to a free agent contract. The Venezuelan, who will turn 30 next February, saved 77 games in his five seasons with the Chicago Cubs while posting a 3.22 ERA.

Rondon lost his closer role to Aroldis Chapman in 2016 then to Wade Davis in 2017. Expect him to give way to Ken Giles while with the Astros but he serves as insurance in case Giles struggles as he did in the postseason. Rondon inked a two-year deal for $8.5 million.

With the earlier signing of Joe Smith to a two-year contract for $15 million, it almost seems as if there are too many arms in the bullpen so it's possible that GM Jeff Luhnow is not finished.

As if the pitching staff wasn't already loaded, the Astros are discussing contract with former nemesis and World Series goat Yu Darvish about joining the rotation, according to Jon Heyman of Fanrag Sports. The former Rangers ace would not require compensation to sign yet the 30-year-old is said to be shopping for a seven-year contract.

The Astros already have a one-two punch of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander but a third quality starter to add to Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh would practically punch the ticket to the AL West crown while providing a kick in the pants to Ranger fans.

Darvish will have no lack of suitors despite the World Series meltdown which were said to be because the Astros spotted a clue as to which pitch was about to be thrown by watching him reposition the ball in his glove. If true, that's something Brett Strom or most pitching coaches can correct.

The Cubs and Twins are already in the hunt for the Japanese hurler and others are sure to follow. Darvish has an overall record of 56-42 with a 3.42 ERA since he came to America in 2012.

To make room for Rondon on the 40-man roster, the Astros designated OF/DH Preston Tucker for assignment. If Tucker clears waivers, he is expected to remain with the Fresno AAA affiliate where he spent last season.

- Bob Hulsey