Who are the Houston Astros targeting to upgrade the bullpen?
The Houston Astros are aggressively looking to upgrade the bullpen, and the team is showing interest in these four relievers.
During the chaos of the Francisco Lindor trade to the New York Mets, Fox 26 Sports Director Mark Berman reported a list of relievers that the Astros are “diligently working toward” signing. The Houston Astros lacked a true closer in 2020 as Roberto Osuna, now a free agent, fell to injury. With Blake Treinen off the market, the Astros are now targeting Trevor Rosenthal along with Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Alex Colome.
The Astros have been in serious talks with Hendriks this offseason, but the former Oakland Athletics reliever is getting attention from the Los Angeles Dodgers as well. Hendriks was a top-rated closer in 2020. Since taking over for Treinen in Oakland, he has been an All-Star and has finished in Cy Young voting. Hendriks posted a 1.78 ERA through 25.1 innings, while fanning 37 batters. Hendriks is looking for a big check this offseason, and as reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Astros were pursuing both Hendriks and Treinen, which shows they are willing to spend heavily this offseason.
Hand is the only left-handed reliever on this list, and as the Astros have been a dominantly right-handed staff in recent years, adding a lefty closer would help provide a different look. The 30-year-old led baseball in saves (16) in 2020 and led the American League in games finished (21). The three-time All-Star has a lower strike out rate than Hendriks, but he would be the third left-handed reliever in the bullpen behind Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley.
Colome is one of the newer names to the Astros list, but the right-hander is not a flamethrower. The Astros should pursue a strikeout machine to wrap out their bullpen, while Colome is more of a contact out closer. With the Chicago White Sox in 2020, Colome had a 0.81 ERA in 22.1 innings. While only fanning 16 batters, Colome is looking to make players miss and that is why he is giving up walks in late innings (8). With only 13 hits given up last season, the former All-Star was pitching to contact to get outs. Colome does mirror the ability of Osuna as the two had similar stat lines in 2019.
Rosenthal hasn’t been in much chatter this offseason for the Astros, but he has a case to be an effective close. In 23.3 innings in 2020, the right-hander posted a 1.90 ERA, while striking out 38 batters. Rosenthal has the highest strikeout rate out of all these candidates, but an injury in 2018 affected his 2019 play and his employment in 2020. While being traded to San Diego from Kansas City, the Padres noticed his former All-Star ways were back. Rosenthal only made $1.1 million in 2020 because of a Washington Nationals buy-out, but the right-hander has definitely proven he is back to his elite closer ways.
The Next Move
The Astros have shown they aren’t scared to spend big this offseason. While the NL West is targeting big names, it is time for the Astros to swoop up one or two of these relief pitchers. A combination of Hendriks or Hand with Colome or Rosenthal would make the Astros a top-5 bullpen in baseball. A move like this would pose a threat to the AL considering the Astros were a young bullpen in 2020. While the Astros rotation looks a different than in recent years, the bullpen could get an elite boost within the next two months.