The Houston Astros got a jump on the offseason by cutting Roberto Osuna loose.
The news wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it did come a little sooner than we thought. The Athletic reported on Thursday that the Houston Astros placed reliever Roberto Osuna on outright waivers, thereby removing him from the 40-man roster. With a roster crunch coming up, the move makes perfect sense.
The Astros were likely going to non-tender Osuna this offseason anyway. He missed nearly all of the 2020 season due to injury, and his status for 2021 was up in the air, as Tommy John surgery had been recommended. He was already set to hit free agency after 2021 anyway, so the team had nothing to lose by cutting him loose this winter in lieu of paying him roughly $10 million next year.
It’s been a tenuous tenure for the former All-Star after he was acquired at the trade deadline from Toronto in 2018. His overall numbers in Houston were solid — a 2.45 ERA, 0.870 WHIP and 51 saves — but the circumstances of his acquisition (he was serving a suspension for domestic violence, thus coming at a bargain) were always controversial, and that understandably overshadowed everything he did.
It didn’t help that he was not as good as advertised in the playoffs. He pitched a total of 16 innings in the postseason for the Astros, allowing nine earned runs for a 5.06 ERA. The poor postseason performance, combined with his personal baggage, made Osuna something of a lightning rod in Houston and around the league. In that sense, it’s good that the team is moving on.
The deadline to non-tender players is Dec. 2, but the Astros obviously didn’t wait for that. By placing him on outright waivers, they give Osuna an opportunity to accept or reject a minor league assignment. If he rejects, as expected, he will become a free agent. So this has the same effect as non-tendering him, but it just happens earlier. This is key.
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The Astros currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster after George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Brad Peacock officially became free agents. They also have four players on the 60-day Injured List (Yordan Alvarez, Bryan Abreu, Austin Pruitt and Rogelio Armenteros) who will need to be activated within the next few days, so that puts them right at 40 on the 40-man roster again. Joe Smith is also not reflected on the 40-man roster and will presumably return next year.
The Astros also have some decisions to make with respect to the Rule 5 Draft. The deadline to add Rule 5 eligible players to the 40-man roster is Nov. 20, and top prospects Forrest Whitley and Freudis Nova are among those who’d need to be protected. By waiving Osuna now, that would free up a 40-man roster spot prior to that Nov. 20 deadline.
The front office will also likely outright a few additional players off the 40-man roster as well, as the presumption is they will be adding a few free agents this offseason. GM James Click will have to do some navigating with respect to the roster this offseason, and it looks like he’s already begun making moves.