Houston Astros: Potential Bullpen Trade Targets

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Reviewing the Reliever Trade Market

Jul 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) pitches during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in many moons, it appears that the Houston Astros do not need to revamp the entirety of their bullpen. Even though the bullpen struggled late in the 2015 season and those issues became even more evident in the postseason, the relief corps as a whole performed admirably. Not the best in baseball, but certainly not the worst.

However, this does not mean that bullpen won’t need some tinkering. There is room for improvement, especially in late innings situations. But the question is who would you bring in to shore up the ‘pen? Luckily for the Astros this offseason doesn’t seem to have a shortage of arms that should be available via trade this upcoming Hot Stove season.

Option #1: Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one name, along with a certain Cincinnati closer that will be discussed in a moment, that was viewed as a trade possibility for the Astros during this past July trade deadline. Needless to say, those talks did not come to fruition. That doesn’t mean though that general manager Jeff Luhnow shouldn’t make a call this winter to San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller to see if the two organizations can finally agree on a trade package for the four-time All-Star closer.

Regardless of the Padres price tag on Kimbrel, the possibility of adding a reliever of this caliber for 2016 sure looks mighty tempting if you are the Astros. The addition of Kimbrel would essentially move Luke Gregerson back to his familiar eighth-inning setup role and move everyone else down the pecking order as well, in essence already making the bullpen deeper than it was in 2015. Not to mention that Kimbrel would not be a rental player. He is under contract through 2017 with a $13 million club option for 2018. When considering the projected going rate for top closers over the next few years, then that price tag could end up being a bargain for any team that enlists in Kimbrel’s services.

The knock on any team trading for a closer is A. the long-term dollars used exclusively on a reliever and B. the prospects it would take to pry Kimbrel from southern California. Teams that are more invested in analytics, such as the Astros, have also started drifting away from the “traditional” closer role and relying more on the top reliever during the highest leverage situation.

The other side of the coin is just can’t simply ignore Kimbrel’s accomplishments as the primary closer throughout his career, even in the midst of a “down” year in 2015. Not only would it be nice to have a reliever that can throw a 97 MPH four-seam fastball and an 87 MPH curveball, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (27.2% in 2015) would also be a nice addition to a bullpen that needs some firepower.

Next: Option #2