Astros: Projecting Houston’s bullpen for the 2020 season
By Karen Watson
Winter meetings start in less than a week. Astros need to address several issues and most of them are in the bullpen area. Let’s have a look.
Even though it’s only been just over a month since Game 7 of the World Series, it seems like it’s been a lifetime since we watched live Astros baseball. And as is the usual M.O. for the front office, we’ve not seen a whole lot of movement thus far in this offseason.
Aaron Sanchez, acquired by the Astros at the July 31st trade deadline, has been non-tendered according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Roster protection formalities have included Bryan Abreu, Rogelio Armenteros, Dean Deetz, Francis Martes, Cy Sneed, and Cionel Perez each being activated. Along with Kent Emanuel, the Astros selected the contracts for each of Cristian Javier, Enoli Paredes, and Nivaldo Rodriguez. And Framber Valdez was assigned to Aguilas Cibaenas, a winter league in the Dominican Republic.
The Astros agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with right-handed reliever, Joe Biagini, acquired from the Blue Jays along with Sanchez on July 31st, and tendered contracts to Chris Devenski, Lance McCullers Jr., Roberto Osuna, and Brad Peacock. (Not to be overlooked, contracts were also offered to Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, Jake Marisnick, and George Springer.)
This still leaves us with some major decisions needed to be made. With four FAs in Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Hector Rondon, and Joe Smith, who do you think we should re-sign in 2020? Money and the luxury tax threshold could play a huge part in these scenarios as Jeff Luhnow waves his magic wand in an attempt to improve on our 2019 relief pitching staff.
While we are in need of at least one, if not two, starters, our bullpen is where we’re left with a pretty bare cupboard for 2020. Barring any unforeseen trade activity, at least we’ll see the return of Ryan Pressly, Osuna, Peacock, Josh James, Biagini, and Devenski.
We’ll talk about the best-case scenarios and we’ll let the guys who get paid the big bucks earn their salary figuring out how to pay for it all.
Who should we re-sign?
1. Will Harris has been in an Astros uniform since 2015. He has a career record of 23-18, an ERA of 2.84, 396.1 innings pitched with 422 SOs, and a WHIP of 1.08. In his 2019 season, he garnered his lowest ERA of 1.50 in 68 games.
Harris proved to be one of the most reliable go-to guys for AJ Hinch, and he was the curve-ball specialist for left-handed hitters. Regardless of who else comes to the pen, Harris should definitely be on the radar for the Astros to re-sign for at least the next two or three seasons.
2. In his second year as an Astro, Joe Smith missed more than half the season recovering from surgery after he tore his Achilles tendon during spring training in 2019, but it’s hard to ignore his numbers for 2019, even with the smaller sample size. With a 1.80 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, he’s another one of the steady arms out of the pen that Hinch could rely on.
Who should we attempt to pickup?
1. Rumors are that Josh Hader could be available for trade. The left-handed star reliever of the Brewers is someone from which our bullpen could possibly benefit. Even though he struggled down the stretch in 2019, with a WHIP of .806 and 138 SOs in 75.2 innings, he is arguably one of the very best relievers in all of MLB.
Hader could prove to be an economic boost to our talent and would be under control until 2024. While his monetary demands would increase over the next few years, he is the type of impact player the Astros could definitely afford to add this coming season. Could you imagine him and Osuna in the same bullpen? The question then becomes, who would we use to accomplish such a trade?
2. Blake Treinen was non-tendered by the A’s, probably because he didn’t have the best year in 2019. But with a fastball that averages 96.7 mph, and the other tools in his arsenal – slider, cutter, and changeup – under the direction of Brent Strom, he could fit right in with the Astros repertoire and possibly get back to his 2018 form.
3. Kirby Yates could be another arm to look into. His pitch mix consists of a 93.5 mph fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a split-finger fastball at 86.4 mph. With a WAR of 2.8, an ERA of 1.19, and a WHIP of 0.89, he could slide right on into the pen and increase our relief weapons.
4. Ryan Buchter was also non-tendered by the A’s. He’s another lefty with an above-average strikeout rate, and could truly be an affordable choice for the Astros.
One thing is for sure, Luhnow is sure to shock us on how creative he gets with the acquisitions during this offseason. We’re definitely going to need some versatility because of the new 3-batter rule taking effect in 2020.