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Astros claim lefty reliever; Is Veras next?


The Astros have claimed left-handed relief pitcher Darin Downs from the Detroit Tigers. Downs, who will turn 29 the day after Christmas, has split time between Detroit and AAA Toledo for each of the past two seasons. The addition of Downs brings the total number of players on the Astros 40-man roster to 36.

A former starter in the minors, Downs settled into a relief role in Detroit. The Astros quite possibly may view him as a lefty specialist. Downs posted a 1.33 WHIP in 35 & 1/3 innings with the Tigers last season. His numbers against lefties were substantially better. (.219/.265/.338 slash line as opposed to .306/.378/.446 against right-handed batters)

The Downs claim isn’t the only news coming out of Detroit today. The Tigers have also officially declined the contract options of backup catcher Brayan Pena and reliever Jose Veras. Both are now Free Agents and could be interesting targets for the Astros.

Pena, 31, appeared in 64 games behind the plate for the Tigers in 2013, posting a .297/.315/.397 slash line in 243 plate appearances. Pena is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and made $875,000 last year. The Astros could be in the market for an affordable and durable backup for Jason Castro.

Jose Veras (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

We all remember Jose Veras. The big right-hander started the 2013 season as the Astros closer. Veras successfully converted 19 of 22 save opportunities for the Astros before being dealt to Detroit at the trade deadline. He continued to enjoy success with the Tigers — that is, until Shane Victorino‘s Grand Slam in Game 6 of the ALCS.

The Tigers exercised the $150,000 buyout clause in lieu of bringing Veras back for 2014 at a cost of $3.25 million.

The Astros still don’t have a bona fide closer on their roster. Furthermore, the bullpen has to be considered the team’s biggest weakness. Veras had mixed emotions last July when the trade went down. He was quoted as saying he considered Houston home and was thankful to the organization for giving him the opportunity as a closer.

Who knows? Maybe we will see Veras back in an Astros uniform in 2014.