The Houston Astros targeted – and missed – on Liam Hendriks and Blake Treinen. Now, they need to quickly pivot to Brad Hand.
On Monday, free-agent closer Liam Hendriks signed a three-year, $54 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. Considering that the Houston Astros were in the mix, it indicates that they are looking to spend, but not on a contract that lucrative.
The last big three closers on the market are Brad Hand, Alex Colome, and Trevor Rosenthal, and while the Astros were in pursuit of both Blake Treinen and Hendriks, I do not believe they will bring in this amount of talent with their payroll. The Los Angeles Dodgers surprised baseball with their big contract to Treinen, and while he isn’t their go-to closer, he will be making more than expected. This deal probably impacted the mindset of Hendriks as he entered deeper talks with front offices.
While Hand saw this move happening, he has an even bigger playing field to evaluate his options. The former Cleveland Indian was a possible pickup off waivers a few months ago for $10 million, and at the time, teams denying this type of money hinted to a deflated market, but the recent free agent contracts paint a different picture.
Hand would add a left-handed arm to the backend of the bullpen, and while being a top-three closer in 2020, his money bag will be heavy. This could be alarming to the Astros as Hand has waited out until two large contracts were settled, but the 30-year-old comes with an 11.9 strikeout per 9 and 2.05 ERA. While leading the league in saves in 2020, Hand pitches to strikeout hitters and home runs are not a thing his vocabulary as he did not give up a single long ball this season. Only five of his eight runs this season were earned. The Astros would be adding a flame-throwing lefty that is much needed in their closing role.
Hand will be looking for a one or two-year contract that figures to come in less than his $10 million club option. The Astros still need to find a center fielder and potentially re-sign Michael Brantley, but the team’s pursuit of high-end relievers indicates that they want to compete in 2021 and have money to spend. Hand has every right to want a large contract, and the team will have to find a way to pay him while keeping extensions and other signings in mind this winter.
The Astros have shown interest in Alex Colome and Trevor Rosenthal, and while Colome mirrors Roberto Osuna’s ability, Rosenthal looked rejuvenated in 2020 after dealing with injuries the last two seasons. Depending on how the Astros’ front office sees their situation, they could pursue both of these closers to round out the bullpen.
We are inching closer to pitchers and catchers reporting, and with the Mets going all in, it is time for the Astros to act fast. The Mets have been reported with connections to Hand, and while this wouldn’t highly affect the Astros season, it could lead to the quick signing of Colome or Rosenthal.