Cristian Javier

Getty Astros pitcher Cristian Javier

The Houston Astros’ already thin starting rotation appears to have taken another hit. Cristian Javier, who has been on the injured list since May 27, needs Tommy John surgery, The Athletic’s Chandler Rome reports.

The Astros cited right forearm discomfort as the reason for his placement on the IL.

Javier has not pitched since May 21, when he gave up 4 runs on 8 hits over 4 innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

Tommy John surgery typically commands a 12-14-month recovery time, which means Javier’s 2024 season is certainly over and he will likely miss a significant portion of 2025 as well.

Javier signed a five-year extension with the Astros last spring worth $64 million. While he’s only earning $7 million this year, Javier will make $10 million next year — a year in which he will, at best, pitch only a partial season. He’s due to make $21 million in both 2026 and 2027.

Cristian Javier’s Struggles

This is Javier’s second IL stint this season. The 27-year-old missed about a month with neck discomfort between April and May and was not his usual self when he returned. In that last start against the Angels, the velocity on each of his pitches dropped, according to data from Fangraphs.

While his fastball averaged a then-season-low 91.1 mph in his penultimate start, it dropped to 90.5 mph against LA. His curveball was also down, averaging 73.8 mph compared to 76 mph in his previous start, and his slider dipped from 76.8 mph to 75.8 mph.

Javier and manager Jose Espada initially insisted that he was healthy, despite the indications to the contrary. Javier was then unable to make his scheduled bullpen session several days later and the Astros eventually shut him down.

In the 3 starts Javier did make since coming off the IL the first time, he threw just 11.1 total innings, allowing 11 runs, walking 8, and giving up 3 home runs. Compare that to the 1.54 ERA he posted in his first four starts. Over that stretch, he gave up just 1 home run in 23.1 innings.

The Astros May Seek Pitching

Despite being 7 games below .500 headed into action on June 4, general manager Dana Brown indicated the team will be buyers at the trade deadline, according to Rome. Houston is going for an eighth-straight trip to the American League Championship Series, and despite the rough start, the team has the talent to make another run.

Brown spoke with reporters on June 3, telling them, “I don’t see any scenario where we’re sellers.”

While Houston has needs up and down the roster, Brown called out starting pitching as an area he may look to improve via trade.

“We’re always in the market for pitching,” Brown said. “If there’s an opportunity where we don’t have to mortgage the farm and there’s a starter that we can get, we’ll get a starter.”

It makes sense. In addition to Javier’s injury, Jose Urquidy is expected to need Tommy John after suffering an injury in Spring Training. Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia are both working their way back, but have yet to pitch in 2024.

Houston’s back end of the rotation has not been productive either, with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti both struggling.

Brown said he didn’t want to mortgage the farm, but the Astros don’t have much of a farm to speak of anyway. Before the season, MLB.com ranked their farm system 27th out of 30 MLB teams and they currently have just one prospect in MLB.com’s top 100.

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