One of the strengths of the Houston Astros last season was the deep pool of talent in their bullpen. That pool seems to be draining down lately.
With the recent news of Joe Smith‘s surgery, accompanied by Collin McHugh‘s imminent move to the starting rotation, the bullpen is losing a lot of innings worth of work. The Astros may need to shift their offseason priorities or find a solution within their organization.
As reported earlier, Joe Smith ruptured his Achilles tendon in his left leg during a workout session. Surgery was performed to repair it and he’s expected to miss 6-8 months, making an August return a reasonable assumption. Then there is the question of his effectiveness and durability when he does get back on the mound. Smith ate up 45.2 innings in 56 appearances last season.
It’s been said that Collin McHugh will be moved to Houston’s starting rotation to help fill the vacancies left by the loss of Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel. McCullers will miss the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery and Morton and, most likely, Keuchel are moving on via free agency. McHugh appeared in 58 games and consumed 72.1 innings.
On top of this, Tony Sipp is also a free agent and may not be wearing an Astros uniform next season. When you add up the innings pitched by these three from the bullpen last year, it comes to 156.2 innings. That’s a chunk of relief work that needs to be made up by other relievers.
Jeff Luhnow was understandably upset over the news of Smith’s injury, but seems to feel that his shoes can be filled internally and an offseason transaction is not necessarily needed.
Whatever the front office decides to do, utilize the free agent market, engineer a trade or fill the void from within, one thing is for sure. There is a hole in that once deep pool of bullpen talent and it needs to be plugged and filled back up somehow.