Houston Astros: Five potential replacements for Roberto Osuna

Oct 30, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Roberto Osuna (54) throws against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning in game seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Roberto Osuna (54) throws against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning in game seven of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Here are five players the Houston Astros could acquire to replace Roberto Osuna.

Much of the attention of the Houston faithful this offseason will be focused on the Astros outfield as George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are all free agents. But the second-biggest need for this team is likely in the bullpen, and GM James Click will have to find a permanent replacement for departed closer Roberto Osuna.

The Astros waived Osuna last week rather than waiting another month to non-tender him. The controversial closer wasn’t certain to pitch in 2021 after missing nearly all of the 2020 season due to injury. Tommy John surgery was recommended for Osuna, but it’s not clear whether he plans to have the procedure. Regardless, the front office felt that it wasn’t worth risking $10 million to find out whether he could pitch effectively next year.

Osuna has a 2.74 ERA in parts of six major league seasons and put up a 2.45 ERA with 51 saves in parts of three seasons with the Astros. His off-the-field baggage was significant and he was less than stellar in the postseason, but he was nonetheless an effective closer, leading the AL in saves in 2019. Replacing that type of regular season production won’t be easy.

Ryan Pressly handled the role in Osuna’s absence in 2020 and pitched to a 3.43 ERA in 23 appearances. There’s a chance the team could leave him in the role for 2021, but I wouldn’t. This year’s version of Pressly just gave me heartburn every time he took the mound in a close game. Enoli Paredes might be another internal candidate, but he needs more seasoning before he’s ready to take on that responsibility.

The trade route is a possibility, but the Astros don’t have the minor league depth they used to have, and picking up a pitcher who’d supplant Pressly won’t come cheap. In all likelihood, if the team wants a new closer to replace Osuna, it’ll have to find one in free agency. Here are five possible candidates.

Brad Hand

I was surprised that no team claimed Hand when the Indians placed him on waivers, as his $10 million club option for 2021 seemed reasonable. But the market for relief pitching may be difficult this winter, even for someone of Hand’s caliber. The southpaw has been one of the most effective relief pitchers in the game over the past five seasons, and he put up a career-best 2.05 ERA in 2020, leading the league with 16 saves.

For what it’s worth, MLB Trade Rumors predicted the Astros to sign Hand to a two-year, $14 million deal. That would seemingly be a great value if the team could ink the 30-year-old to that type of contract, and it would be in the team’s budget. Hand would be a clear upgrade over the rest of the bullpen.

Liam Hendriks

Hendriks may be the top reliever on the market after putting together two dominant years in Oakland, and he was effective against the Astros in the ALDS. The 31-year-old may thus come with a bigger price tag than Hand, so the team could probably find better value elsewhere.

Still, it’s hard to deny the boost this would bring. Hendriks was difficult to hit, posted high strikeout rates and low home run rates. If the Astros are intending to compete for another championship in 2021, this would be probably the single biggest improvement they could make to the bullpen.

Kirby Yates

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This would be an interesting buy-low possibility. Yates was dominant for the Padres in 2019, garnering an All-Star selection and cracking the Top 10 in the Cy Young Award voting. The righthander put up a 1.19 ERA and 41 saves, striking out 101 batters in 60.2 innings. His 2020 did not go as planned, as he made only six appearances before hitting the shelf with elbow issues.

Yates had what appears to be a relatively minor surgery on his elbow, so if he’s ready to go for next season, the 33-year-old southpaw could be a huge bargain if he can get back to anything close to his 2018-2019 form. Even if the Astros sign another closer candidate, I’d still take a flier on Yates if the medicals check out.

Trevor Rosenthal

Rosenthal was a player I hoped to see the Astros acquire at the trade deadline, but Click stood pat. All told, the flamethrower pitched to a 1.90 ERA in 23 appearances, including making nine scoreless appearances for the Padres after being traded. The 30-year-old has a volatile injury history but finally got healthy in 2020.

MLB Trade Rumors projects him to get the same contract as Hand, and I would rather give that money to Hand. But if the Astros don’t get him, allocating that money to Rosenthal wouldn’t be a bad idea. As long as he’s healthy and his mechanics are good, he’ll blow guys away.

Blake Treinen

Treinen would be something of a reclamation project. He was flat out dominant in 2018 for the A’s and had a few good years before that as well, but 2019 wasn’t kind to him, and Oakland consequently non-tendered him. He caught on with the Dodgers in 2020 and was better, but not quite at the level he’d been before.

The velocity is still there, and he gets groundballs at a high rate, which would fit nicely with this Houston infield with its should-have-been Gold Glove shortstop. There’s a little more risk involved here than there would be with Hand or Hendriks, but there’s no denying he’d be a good addition to the Astros bullpen.