Astros non-tender hard-throwing RHP James

November 19th, 2022

HOUSTON -- , a hard-throwing right-hander who set the Astros' rookie single-season record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher with 99 in 2019 and earned a win in Game 3 of the 2019 World Series, was non-tendered by the club on Friday night, making him a free agent and likely ending his tenure with the team that drafted him in the 34th round in 2014.

James, who will turn 30 in March, has battled injuries throughout this career, including a lat strain that sidelined him for most of this season at Triple-A Sugar Land. His season came to an end in late September when he underwent flexor tendon surgery. James was limited to 30 appearances in the Minor Leagues this year, posting a 6.51 ERA with 35 strikeouts and 17 walks in 27 2/3 innings.

The Astros tendered contracts to their eight other arbitration-eligible players: infielder/outfielder Mauricio Dubón, right-handers José Urquidy, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek, left-handers Framber Valdez and Blake Taylor, and right fielder Kyle Tucker. Those players are under contract for 2023 with their salary to be determined through the arbitration process.

James made his Major League debut in 2018, pitching 23 innings across six games (three starts) with a fastball that topped out at 101.1 mph. He made two appearances against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series that year, striking out five batters in 3 2/3 innings in relief in Game 4. James made his first Opening Day roster in 2019, striking out 14.7 batters per nine innings -- the fifth-best mark by a rookie reliever in Major League history -- and posting a 4.70 ERA in 49 games.

Since that breakout 2019 season, James has thrown only 22 1/3 innings in the big leagues. He underwent hip surgery in October 2020 and battled hamstring and back problems in the months following. James was projected to make $875,000 in arbitration by Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but with the Astros having plenty of bullpen depth, he was a logical non-tender candidate.