Rumors indicate the Houston Astros are targeting pitchers Matt Barnes and Robbie Ray.
The trade deadline is coming up on Monday and we finally have our first legitimate rumor concerning the Houston Astros. The Athletic is reporting that two of the team’s targets are Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes and Diamondbacks lefthander Robbie Ray.
This isn’t the first time the Astros have been connected to Ray, as they were rumored to be interested in him last year before they acquired his teammate Zack Greinke. Choosing Greinke proved to be a wise decision for former GM Jeff Luhnow as Ray has struggled mightily this season, putting up a 7.84 ERA in seven starts thanks to an inflated home run rate and severe control issues, walking 31 batters in 31 innings.
He was an All-Star in 2017 and has struck out at least 218 batters in three of the past four seasons despite not typically pitching very deep into games. Lefthanders who strike out batters at a high rate don’t just grow on trees, so the interest is understandable despite his current struggles. He’s also a free agent at season’s end, so the 28-year-old shouldn’t come with a high price tag.
Some teams have been rumored to have interest in Ray as a relief pitcher, as he’s still generating whiffs despite his penchant for walks and homers. The Astros did this with Francisco Liriano in 2017 to mild success. It’s worth a shot, as Arizona can’t expect to extract much for one month of a pitcher who’s struggling like this.
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Barnes has been having similar issues with Boston, as he’s pitched to a 6.00 ERA and 1.667 WHIP in 12 appearances thanks to inflated walk and home run rates. But he was a solid reliever over the previous four seasons, making north of 60 appearances each year with strong strikeout rates and an above-average adjusted ERA.
The Red Sox are clearly selling, as they’ve already traded relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. Barnes actually has one more year of team control left and is earning the prorated portion of a $3.1 million salary this year. With that extra year of team control, his price tag won’t be exorbitant but it will be a little higher.
Both of these pitchers are struggling this year, so if the Astros do acquire them, it would have to be in the hope that pitching coach Brent Strom can help them reverse their fortunes. They represent something of a low-risk, high-reward type move given their expected relatively low cost, but that might just be right up GM James Click’s alley. I expect them to add to the bullpen before Monday’s deadline, and it looks like that’s the direction the front office is heading.