Houston Astros First Half Roundtable: Bullpen
We drew straws for which element of the first half 2014 Houston Astros we would be covering, and I got the bullpen! Kidding we negotiated fairly and I was late to the board meeting.
So bullpen it is!
Truth is, I volunteered bullpen with an immediate angle in mind… who’s getting traded?
Each season in Jeff Luhnow’s tenure as General Manager of the Astros he has taken a recognized route with the closer position.
Sign someone’s previous setup man or late reliever to a short-term decent money deal and watch him flourish in a closer’s role and then deal him to a contender to go back to the player’s customary aforementioned role and net the organization a little more depth in the farm system.
2012, the exception, saw closer turned starter turned back closer Brett Myers traded to the Chicago White Sox for three minor league players. Matt Heidenreich, Blair Walters and then Chris Devenski as the PTBNL. So yeah, depth in the organization.
In 2013 the team picked up a more fruitful investment dealing Jose Veras to the Detroit Tigers for a 19-year old outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and David Paulino as a PTBNL.
The former “Jose V” Detroit acquired via Houston worked out better.
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Ironically after finishing with the Tigers and busting out with the Chicago Cubs, he was signed to a minor league contract by the ‘Stros on June 15 and was recalled on June 26.
For 2014 the team was still and is still clearly rebuilding, but the massive rebuild if you will, looks complete with the major transactions pertaining to retooling a stagnantly bad organization over the past three seasons.
The club signed multiple late relievers with certain ability to close out ballgames.
Jesse Crain was signed but is still rehabbing from serious shoulder problems suffered with the Chicago White Sox last July. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 2013 with a stellar 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances but did not pitch in the game due to injury.
From a Houston Chronicle piece in March 2014 on Crain’s potential return date.
"“I’d say end of April, beginning of May, somewhere in that time frame.”"
Unfortunately that hasn’t worked out…at all…so far.
Crain was signed for $3.25 million.
Matt Albers was also signed by the Astros for $2.25 million and a flexible and very trade friendly $3 million dollar team option for 2015. Albers, whose career began in Houston in 2006, sported a sparkling 0.90 ERA in 8 games before falling to a right shoulder injury himself.
Chad Qualls, however, has stayed healthy and given the Houston Astros a consistent and more than viable presence at the end of the bullpen in 2014. After some early season shuffling and regular season game tryouts, Qualls was named the full-time closer on May 16 and has easily held the role since. He also began his career with the Astros (in 2002) and sports an impressive 1.95 ERA with 10 saves so far this year.
He will absolutely net the club a solid prospect to stash at the minimum, while the others have value if healthy, Crain has the biggest upside of them all if he can ever get back on the mound.
Lefty Tony Sipp was signed May 1st, just hours after being released by the San Diego Padres. He’s been a lefty specialist and a little more, finding more turbulence in the latter role.
Jerome Williams: total flop.
Kyle Farnsworth: He was here. Then gone when…
Anthony Bass: Expected more
Josh Fields: Can’t stay healthy.
Paul Clemens: 6.08 ERA, still gets most opportunities to not stink.
Josh Zeid: Kennon’s love for the final Hunter Pence trade piece can’t cure an ERA north of 5 and a half.