Miley Signing Solidifies Rotation
Lefty May Signal End To Keuchel Return Hopes

Miley: Strom's new project
(c) USA Today
Internet sources claim that the Astros have reached agreement with free agent starting pitcher Wade Miley on a one-year contract for $4.5 million plus another possible $500,000 in incentives. The ballclub is expected to have a news conference Friday to announce the signing.

Miley, a lefthander, carries a 71-76 record after eight big league seasons with a 4.26 ERA however he upped his visibility last year when he went 5-2 in 16 starts with a 2.57 ERA during Milwaukee's stretch run into the playoffs. He followed that with 14-2/3rds innings in the postseason that produced a stingy 1.23 ERA.

The breakthrough for Miley was due to improvement with his cut fastball, although he is still not a high-strikeout thrower. The Astros hope Pitching Coach Brett Strom, who has performed his magic on Mike Fiers, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh among others, can keep 32-year-old Miley in his sweet spot for 2019. The Hammond, LA native is expected to combine his cutter with a curveball.

Injuries are another factor. Miley suffered strains to his groin and his oblique last season before breaking out in the second half of the year.

On paper, Miley fits in the rotation behind righthanders Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and McHugh. The fifth spot of the rotation is expected to be a battle between rookies Josh James, Framber Valdez and Brady Rodgers with veteran Brad Peacock also in the mix. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is expected to begin the year in the minors but might be called up should someone falter.

That would seem to leave out unsigned former Cy Young Award winner and fan favorite Dallas Keuchel from the Astros' plans. It is rumored, however, that incentives were written into Miley's contract that could reflect a transition to the bullpen. A Keuchel signing might still fit into the payroll but he'd have to accept less than what he's been asking so far.

The lefthanded bullpen role is also up for grabs with Cionel Perez competing for a spot that might be given to Valdez or Miley depending on how the spring unfolds. Both the World Champion Red Sox and Yankees hurt Houston with lefty hitters last season.

Pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach in two weeks.

- Bob Hulsey