The Hot Stove just keeps heating up for the Houston Astros! Numerous names have been linked to the Astros since the World Series concluded earlier this month. And thanks to an MLBtraderumors.com article, we can now add two more names to the list of players to keep an eye on as the offseason marches on; Tampa Bay Rays pitchers Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger.
Those names may not excite any fans right off the bat, but if the possibility of adding McGee or Boxberger truly exists then, the Astros may need to go for it. For example, McGee could be the best option to replace reliever Tony Sipp as the primary left-handed specialist out of the bullpen if Sipp chooses to sign elsewhere. After all, the Rays reliever did finish 2015 with a 2.41 ERA and 2.33 FIP in 37.2 innings pitched. McGee’s splits are impressive as well; in 2015 he allowed both right- and left-handed hitters to only hit for a .196 average and a .259/.228 wOBA.
Boxbereger could also be an answer to the Astros closing issue as a cheaper, possibly more realistic, alternative to Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman. In his first full year season as the Rays closer, Boxberger finished with 41 saves and a 3.71 ERA in 63 innings pitched. Not exactly the best closer available on the market, but compared to the price tag associated with Kimbrel and Chapman then he may be the next best choice on the trade market.
However, besides the high ERA and FIP (4.26), his stuff may not be what the Astros need in the bullpen. With a fastball averaging around 92 to 93 MPH, he wouldn’t fill the need of a flamethrower that can get strikeouts in high leverage situations. After all, his 27.3% strikeout percentage only comes in 41st of all qualifying relievers in 2015.
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Both pitchers are under club control heading into 2016, with McGee entering his third arbitration year this winter and Boxberger, a former first-round draft pick of the Reds in 2009, isn’t arbitration-eligible yet. While McGee will get a raise from his 2015 $3.55 million salary, he may be a bargain over Sipp’s potential 2016 salary. Boxberger was paid $521.4K in 2015, so his salary for 2016 isn’t expected to be an issue in any potential deal with the Rays.
In the end, adding a pitcher of McGee’s caliber may make more sense for the Astros going forward than adding Boxberger. But if general manager Jeff Luhnow and the front office determine that the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres asking price for their respective closers is too high, then it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Boxberger could be viewed as a consolation prize.
Luhnow has already had one conversation with Tampa Bay’s front office, and there could be more once the dominoes start following. Stay tuned, this is bound to get interesting as the offseason advances.
**Statistics are provided by Fangraphs.com**
**Contract information is provided by Sportrac.com**