Starters are being scooped up faster than any other commodity on the free-agent market. They're vastly important, even for teams that are coming off a season in which they lost 111 games. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Astros have agreed to terms with right-hander Scott Feldman on a three-year, $30 million deal, in the hopes he'll help them avoid that fate again.
Feldman's career numbers are far from spectacular, as he owns a 4.62 ERA that translates to a below-average 96 ERA+, but the Astros didn't target him to be an ace. He will provide Houston with innings in the middle of their rotation, likely around the same, average-ish level of performance he's put together over the last three years. With the Astros focusing their attention on cultivating a deep and healthy farm system, pitchers like Feldman can go a long way toward keeping the major-league product watchable while also keeping the kids from being called upon too early. Specifically, those starters-in-waiting are Mark Appel and Mike Foltynewicz, and, in conjunction with Feldman, the Astros have the makings of a solid rotation base in their near future.
While Feldman has somewhat better production according to run estimators like FIP, it's not so much that he's expected to break out from the production he's put up in the past. He doesn't have to, though, in order to accomplish the above goal set out for him by the Astros. Given they ranked 13th in the American League in starter ERA in 2013 at 4.72, average Feldman is a boost, in addition to a helpful void filler until the kids are prepared.
Feldman will be 31 years old in 2014, and out of town before he's at a worrisome age, and all without having to serve up a significant average annual value at a time when pitchers like Ricky Nolasco are earning nearly $50 million as free agents.