The Astros have been linked to various free agents and trade targets since the offseason started. However, don’t expect one position to be addressed externally this winter.
Thanks to a recent story from Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, the Astros reportedly aren’t in a rush to address their left-handed relief depth as noted here by general manager Jeff Luhnow in the former’s article. Despite a visible opening with Tony Sipp‘s contract now off the books, Houston is content rolling with their in-house options.
Not exactly earth-shattering news, but still a bit unexpected. For one, I’ve always assumed the Astros were going to take a long look at free-agent left-handers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller this offseason. Honestly, they could have already kicked the tires on both pitchers and decided against it. Perhaps the cost is too much? I trust the Astros have done their due diligence on the subject.
If Luhnow’s latest comments don’t change, Rome mentions two internal candidates for a left-handed relief role in 2019: Cionel Perez and Framber Valdez. Not only do both pitchers have experience as a starter, but they also entered games via relief for the Astros last season. The 25-year old Valdez maintained a 2.19 ERA across 37 major league innings (eight appearances, five starts) while Perez posted a 3.97 ERA in 11 1/3 innings (all in relief). Rome does state in his article that Perez may have the edge as a left-handed option in the bullpen, although Luhnow does want to give the young lefty a shot as a starter.
"“I personally still see him as a starter — not everyone in our organization is on the same page as far as where we’re going to start him and what role he’s going to be in,” Luhnow said of Perez, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds."
At this point in the offseason, the Astros have more significant needs elsewhere than adding another left-handed reliever. Perez and Valdez are solid options for the club heading into 2019. That said, I can see Houston jumping into the fray if the price drops for certain southpaws.