Astros: Zach Britton could be a nice boost to the bullpen
By Brian Murray
The Astros’ bullpen depth is diminishing due to recent injury news and changes to come. Zach Britton is a free agent that could help.
The shrinking bullpen of the Houston Astros may need an injection of help from outside. Joe Smith is out for 6-8 months following surgery, Collin McHugh is moving up to the starting rotation and Tony Sipp may be exiting via free agency. Zach Britton is a reliever on the free agent market that could be that booster shot.
Some might say there is plenty of young talent that could step up and fill the void. Josh James, Cionel Perez and Framber Valdez are promising young pitchers often mentioned. One of those may actually be a candidate as a starter, to fill yet another void in the starting rotation. But with very little major league experience these pitchers have, is it safe to rely on the unknown?
Zach Britton is no stranger to the Houston front office. The Astros were close to trading for Britton in the summer of 2017, and again, were rumored to be pursuing him just this past July. Now as a free agent they are able to acquire Britton straight up, no strings attached.
The 31-year-old native of Texas is projected to get a contract in the 3 year/$33 million range. If he is anywhere near his Steamer 2019 projections he would be well worth that. His strikeout to walk ratios can be inconsistent and look unimpressive on paper, but misleading as well. Britton is one of the best in baseball to induce soft ground balls, 73% in 2018.
He had injury problems in 2017-18, ironically one of them a torn Achilles tendon, but returned to appear in 41 games last season posting a 3.10 ERA. If he can return to his All-Star status of 2015-16, he would be a great asset to the bullpen and a nice mentor to the Astros younger pitchers. With his extensive work as a closer, he could also spell Roberto Osuna at times.