Luhnow: Rotation depth still priority for Astros

January 7th, 2016

HOUSTON -- With six weeks remaining until the start of Spring Training, the Astros continue to have an eye on improving the team for 2016, though it appears the heavy lifting is complete.

The club's biggest splash was trading for closer Ken Giles from the Phillies, a move which gives the Astros a young power arm at the back end of a bullpen that was one of the best in the league for the first five months of 2015. A couple of days prior to the Giles trade, the Astros re-signed left-hander Tony Sipp to a three-year deal, fulfilling the need for a lefty reliever.

Beyond trading for Giles, the return of Sipp and outfielder Colby Rasmus might not be enough to get Astros fans burning with Hot Stove fever, but the team's core is in place and it should be positioned for another postseason run this season. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Thursday he will continue to look and evaluate every opportunity to improve the team, but he feels he's in a good position and that he doesn't have to do anything at this point.

• Astros Hot Stove Tracker

"We can do something if we feel the right opportunity presents itself, so we're working hard and talking to other clubs and looking at what free agents are out there and if there's a way to make it work," he said. "That continues, and it probably will continue all the way until Opening Day."

Luhnow said the team met its three offseason goals by getting a back-end relief pitcher (Giles), left-handed reliever (Sipp) and outfielder (Rasmus, who took a qualifying offer in November). Luhnow said adding a starting pitcher remains a possibility, with the potential hurler joining a staff that includes reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, 19-game winner Collin McHugh, up-and-comer Lance McCullers, no-hit hero Mike Fiers and veteran Scott Feldman.

"We've been attempting in different ways to give ourselves more options in the rotation, but have not been able to do that yet," Luhnow said. "That's still a priority. It hasn't been something we feel we have to do."

Feldman (shoulder) and Brad Peacock (back) remain on target to start Spring Training, and Asher Wojciechowski, Dan Straily and Michael Feliz will provide depth. In the days prior to spring camp last year, the Astros signed veteran Roberto Hernandez to throw into the competition, and a similar move can't be ruled out.

"It's just a matter of if we find a guy that's a definite upgrade, another guy that would provide us with some insurance," Luhnow said. "Those are two avenues we're looking at. We're still looking at building more depth in the Minor Leagues, as far as having players with Major League experience who could come up due to an injury.

"... Other than that, we want to put ourselves in a position where we can be opportunistic if a free agent becomes available to us that we didn't think was going to be in our view. That's something we want to potentially be able to take advantage of. We're keeping tabs on the market, regardless of position."

Last week, the Astros signed veteran outfielder Eury Perez and right-hander Cesar Valdez. Also last month, the Astros claimed hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Danny Reynolds off waivers from the Dodgers. Luhnow said Reynolds will compete for a spot in the bullpen and hopes the club can catch lightning in a bottle like it did last year with Will Harris.