The Astros will probably upgrade the bullpen at trade deadline
By Eric Huysman
Look for some upgrades to the Astros bullpen at some point this season.
This is not a rumor, but everyone knows that Astros bullpen needs an upgrade at some point. While Ken Giles has had some poor performances, this is not a “we need a closer post.” It is still too soon to give up on a talent like Giles. Closers these days are not like Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. They will have some stinkers, but they will also have some great stretches.
As the July trade deadline approaches, expect to hear the Astros involved in trade talks for bullpen help. The Astros are not stupid. They know that they need some help with this bullpen. Before the home series versus the Indians at Minute Maid Park, I got a chance to talk to Buster Olney. He said it is too soon to know what the needs will be, but it looks like the focus would be on the bullpen.
A look at the current bullpen.
When you look at the surface of the Astros roster, there is not much flexibility with the bullpen. None of these guys are emergency call-ups because of an injury. This bullpen has stayed relatively healthy from the group that they assembled this offseason. These are the guys that the Astros wanted on the team, except Tony Sipp. Sipp has pitched well in his limited role with a 3.48 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.
The front office did not trust Sipp in the playoffs last year, instead relying on the Francisco Liriano experiment. Has he done enough this year to earn their trust, or will the team go out and get a lefty?
Who is out there?
The names that you will most likely hear thrown about are Zach Britton (hasn’t pitched yet) and Brad Hand. These are both players the Astros have gone after before. They both also have closing experience as well.
Some other names to keep an eye on would be Shane Greene, Joakim Soria, Brad Brach, or Kelvin Herrera among others. Outside of the Giles trade, it seems like the Astros don’t want to spend a lot to get a reliever. If it requires Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, then the team will look elsewhere. Then again, we are talking about some of the top targets on the market. Will the Astros do what it takes to get the extra piece that they need?
Depending on health, the Astros bullpen is stacked as is. Whoever the team gets would have to be better than the current options. Outside of the popular answer, who would get the boot if you add another reliever? Joe Smith has pitched better recently, and Hector Rondon is showing that he can be trusted. Collin McHugh has proved to be a valuable long-reliever. The rest of the bullpen are locks.
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One thing that many people have speculated about are in-house options for the bullpen. While we have this historically good rotation, despite Dallas Keuchel‘s loss yesterday, only four will pitch in the playoffs. Sorry Astros fans, Keuchel will not become a reliever. Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole are three of the best starters in baseball. That leads Lance McCullers as a reliever. Could he become the closer?
There are a few players in the minors who could help in Reymin Guduan, David Paulino, or James Hoyt. But the one who could make an instant impact is someone already on the 40-man roster, Cionel Perez. He is 4-1 with the Hooks with a 1.88 ERA while striking out 47 hitters in 38 1/3 innings. Granted he is being groomed for a starter. He could make the show earlier in the bullpen.
Next: Astros: Max Stassi’s opportunity for 2018 and beyond
The team will use the next month plus to evaluated their bullpen needs. We saw them upgrade the rotation last year. You can expect them to focus on the bullpen. Despite the carping by Astros fans, they still have the lowest bullpen ERA (3.02) in the American League. The bullpen has seven blown saves in 19 opportunities, which is tied with the Blue Jays, Rangers, and Rays for fourth fewest in the AL. Oakland has four blown saves and Boston has five. Things could be worse.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and ESPN***