The Houston Astros should have no problem exercising Brooks Raley’s club option.
Unbeknownst to many of us until recently, the Houston Astros actually have a $2 million club option on lefthander Brooks Raley for 2021. They have until five days after the World Series to inform him of their decision, but it shouldn’t take long to decide that exercising the option is the way to go.
The Astros acquired Raley in August after he’d been designated for assignment by the Reds. The 32-year-old, who’s still technically a rookie after spending the past few years pitching in Korea, had allowed four earned runs in four innings for Cincinnati in his first MLB action since 2013.
He turned a corner after the trade, however. His 3.94 ERA in 17 regular season appearances for the Astros wasn’t overly impressive, but he managed a fantastic 0.750 WHIP, allowing only eight hits and four walks in 16 innings while striking out 21 batters. The only real blemish on his record was allowing three home runs.
Raley made his way into manager Dusty Baker’s circle of trust, and he pitched to a 3.18 ERA in six postseason appearances. He allowed a few too many baserunners but still put up a serviceable performance, especially considering the relative lack of depth in the Astros relief corps.
After not carrying a single lefthanded reliever for most of 2019, the 2020 Astros had two in Raley and Blake Taylor. Both put up solid performances, and it would be a welcome sight to see them both back in Baker’s bullpen next year. Taylor will certainly be there, and $2 million seems a worthwhile commitment for another year of Raley.
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Lefthanded batters managed only a meager .407 OPS against Raley in 2020, so he’s clearly someone who can be relied on to get lefthanders out. That was a real problem for the Astros in 2019, especially against the likes of Juan Soto in the World Series. Imagine what a difference having someone like Raley would have made.
The amount of the option ($2 million) is pretty much what the Astros would be paying Chris Devenski if they brought him back, though I recently noted he’s an obvious non-tender candidate. Part of the reason Devenski continued to remain on the roster despite poor showings in 2018 and 2019 is his ability to neutralize lefthanders. For the same price, Raley looks to be much more effective at that.
It’s been a nice emergence for the former Texas A&M Aggie who was taken by the Cubs in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. Raley won’t be confused with Billy Wagner — his cutter averaged 86.8 mph and his four-seamer averaged 90.1 mph — but he was in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity and the 99th percentile in hard hit percentage.
That may not necessarily be sustainable, but pitching coach Brent Strom will surely want him around. Raley’s curve ranked in the 94th percentile in spin rate, and his fastball was in the 93rd percentile. Those numbers suggest that $2 million is a worthwhile gamble to see if Raley can recreate his magic in 2021.