The Astros’ bullpen is strong after adding veterans Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, but there’s one big piece that’s still missing.
Early in the offseason, I stated the Astros would do well to add two quality relief arms. They just added one, signing righty Joe Smith to a two-year deal. He will basically take the spot Luke Gregerson occupied in the Astros’ pen.
And earlier on Friday, the Astros agreed to terms with Hector Rondon. The former Chicago Cub reliever provides additional depth.
The top two free agent lefties, Mike Minor and Jake McGee, are already off the board. Tony Watson remains available, and Kevin Siegrist could also fill that need. The remaining lefties on the market don’t have quite as consistent a track record.
The trade market is also a possibility, with Brad Hand being the real prize. But prying him away from San Diego won’t be easy, so the team might need to get creative to avoid trading top prospects. It’s possible other trade options will emerge as well.
It’s also been speculated that the Astros could add a starting pitcher, thereby pushing another starter to the bullpen. That would presumably be Brad Peacock, thanks to his successful run last season.
But the team already has six starters on hand in Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh and Peacock. They have additional depth in Francis Martes, David Paulino and possibly Musgrove. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is on the rise as well.
The Best Path Forward
For a team that got a combined 137 appearances from Liriano, Reymin Guduan, Jandel Gustave, James Hoyt and Michael Feliz last season, the path seems clear. Adding another strong reliever will help more than adding another starter.
So the bottom line here is that the Astros need to add a solid left-hander — one who isn’t a reclamation project. If they don’t want to pay a bounty for Hand, they should act quickly to sign Watson or Siegrist. Going into the season with Sipp and the recently-acquired Anthony Gose doesn’t inspire much confidence.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***