Realistic or not, the Astros may be wise to ask about a certain left-hander reliever from Miami. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
As the world continues to praise the Yankees’ bullpen, and rightly so, the Astros have missed out on Zach Britton for a second year in a row. Depending on how you’d view Britton going forward, it could be a missed opportunity or a blessing in disguise. Either way, it was a move that serves two purposes for the Yankees. One was to add another quality arm to their bullpen, and the other was to keep Britton away from the Astros and Red Sox. Done and done.
Despite the Britton news, the Astros still have options. Another arm in the bullpen would be nice, preferably a left-hander. With Britton and Hand are now off the market, the choices may not be obvious to everyone. One name that I’d propose for Houston to inquire about – if not already done so by Jeff Luhnow and the front office – is Adam Conley of the Marlins.
As we all know, the Marlins are a rebuilding club. And like all rebuilding clubs, the Marlins are likely looking for ways to improve the club during the long-term. Even though Conley is under club control through 2021, he is already in his age-28 season. If Miami’s front office hasn’t already considered the possibility of trading Conley, I’d advise to explore the possibility. Despite the club control, the present may be Conley’s point of highest value. And he would also be the type of reliever that the Astros can use for this season and the future.
Based on this season alone, Conley has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. Through 27 1/3 innings, he has held opposing hitters to a .158 batting average and .239 wOBA. Conley is effective against all hitters as he has held right-handed hitters to a .222 wOBA and left-handed hitters to a .256 wOBA. When he was a starting pitcher, Conley’s fastball hovered in the low nineties. Since the move to the bullpen, his average fastball velocity has jumped to 95.5 MPH. His strikeout rate has also jumped to 30.4% as a reliever compared to 15.6% when he started 20 games for the Marlins last season.
In short, Conley has transformed himself from a starting pitcher, who was more-or-less struggling, into a key cog in the bullpen where he has thrived. Not surprisingly, Conley’s velocity on all of his pitches have increased in the role change. In conjunction with the fastball, his changeup and slider are also quality pitches. His stuff has parlayed well in the shorter spurts.
That said, the prospect package to acquire Conley from the Marlins, much like his teammate J.T. Realmuto, would be sky high. And I wouldn’t blame the Marlins if they decided to keep Conley for a while in either the bullpen or the starting rotation. Miami should not be trading away more talent that could be a part of the future, but a potential return for Conley would be enticing. The Astros would have to part ways with highly ranked prospects to acquire the southpaw in any case. At this point, I wouldn’t rank the possibility of Conley in a Houston uniform as likely. But it doesn’t hurt to look.