Astros: Future of closer role uncertain with Osuna injury
The future of the Houston Astros closer role isn’t clear after Roberto Osuna’s injury.
If it wasn’t clear that the Houston Astros are going to be without closer Roberto Osuna for the foreseeable future, it was made even clearer when they placed him on the 45-day Injured List. Manager Dusty Baker said things aren’t looking good for the right-hander, who appears destined for Tommy John surgery.
As I wrote recently, that will almost certainly spell the end of Osuna’s time in Houston. He was already set to be a free agent after the 2021 season, so if he’s to miss most or all of next year recovering, the Astros have no reason to tender him a contract. In all likelihood, he won’t be with the organization next year.
In the immediate future, the intention is for Ryan Pressly to close, but that experiment hasn’t gone well so far. He should bounce back once he finds his groove, but not everyone is meant to be a closer. Time will tell if Pressly is the type of pitcher to fill that role or not.
For the time being, the job is his as long as he keeps it. He’s under contract through next season, and the Astros will now have a club option on him for 2022. He’s 31, so they could control him through his age-33 season if they so choose. Maybe he’s the closer for the next half-decade, or maybe he isn’t. We’ll just have to see.
As far as in-house options go, the only pitcher who’s proven himself capable of the job right now is lefty Blake Taylor. All the other pitchers, while experiencing some success, have also had times where they haven’t looked so great. Even Enoli Paredes, who can look flat out dominant, can also lose his command at times.
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But hopefully Pressly can hold down the fort for a while. The Astros have plenty of live arms in their system, so it’s all a matter of finding one who can command his pitches well enough and develop the mentality to be a successful closer. The mental part of it is half the battle sometimes, and at this point it’s just too soon to say whether any of their young arms have the stuff for the job.
If Pressly doesn’t inspire enough confidence to give him the job for 2021, the Astros may have to resort to the trade market. The options available in free agency this winter all have their warts. If he doesn’t want to lose the prospect capital in a trade, GM James Click might have to sign two or three free agents and see who steps up to claim the job.
Among impending free agents, the so-called bona fide closers, such as Kirby Yates and Sean Doolittle, are off to horrid starts. Other guys are either coming off injuries or getting up there in age. There’s no one who looks like a good candidate to get a big payday this winter.
So, in short, the future for the Astros closer role looks rather murky beyond Pressly. Osuna is most likely out of the picture, and everyone else in the organization is simply too inexperienced to pencil into the role. It’s going to be an interesting couple of years at the back end of the bullpen.