Opportunity knocks for the Astros to add a potentially effective lefthanded reliever for cheap
Veteran Tony Sipp, coming off two poor seasons and earning $6 million this year, has continued to struggle. He put up a 5.87 ERA through his first 7.2 innings this spring, allowing nine hits and four walks. Despite this, it looks like Sipp will take the last bullpen spot.
However, there are other options available. Two veteran lefty relievers have recently hit the free agent market once again, meaning the Astros are free to give them a shot.
Antonio Bastardo was released by the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, while former Astro Fernando Abad was cut loose by Philadelphia on Wednesday. Both signed minor-league deals with those clubs, so it’s likely the Astros could get them on similar deals. Neither is a sure thing, but both have some potential.
Bastardo had a disastrous 2017, allowing 15 runs in nine major league innings with the Pirates. He also walked more batters than he struck out in that span. But he was solid this spring, with a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts against one walk.
His track record is excellent. Bastardo has held lefty batters to a .196/.290/.362 line over his career, and at age 32, he’s two years younger than Sipp. The Astros would be wise to see if he can be the guy they need to get a big strikeout against a left-handed hitter.
Abad is also 32, and he’s coming off a solid run since leaving Houston. He posted an ERA of 3.66 or lower in four of the last five seasons and has held lefty hitters to a .237/.287/.383 line. His 2017 mark was even better at .227/.288/.348.
However, hitters torched Abad this spring for five earned runs in 1.2 innings, so perhaps some time in the minors would do him good. Still, his recent history suggests he can be a useful major league reliever, especially for a team that doesn’t have one.
One interesting fact is that these are two different types of pitchers. Bastardo is a high-strikeout reliever who generally doesn’t allow too many hits, but does issue his share of walks. Abad gives up more hits, but surrenders fewer walks and generates fewer strikeouts. At their best, both would be a welcome addition to the Astros bullpen.
Even better, both can be signed to a minor-league deal with an opt-out date, so there’s no risk involved. They’d have to at least be intrigued by the chance to compete for a spot in the Astros’ pen. The Astros would be smart to sign one or both to see if they can be what the team needs.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***