The Houston Astros are among the many teams expressing interest in free-agent reliever Jeremy Jeffress, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. The other interested include the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.
Jeffress, 33, is two years removed from a dominant season with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he finished the 2018 season with a 1.29 ERA in 76.2 innings pitched. His fastball and splitter combo overpowered hitters and kept them off balance, giving the Brewers one of the most dominant bullpen trios in baseball with Josh Hader and Corey Knebel.
Jeffress, however, was designated for assignment a year later after putting up a 5.02 ERA in 52 innings. He did not pitch the rest of the season and latched on with the Cubs on a low-risk, high-reward type deal. He took full advantage. He showed glimpses of his old self, finishing this past season with a 1.54 ERA in 23.1 innings.
While Liam Hendriks signed a $54 million contract, and the other top relievers could command deals in the $10 million range, Jeffress will command a much more team-friendly deal. While he had a bounce back season, he is in the backend of his career and teams will be leery that he will be able to replicate his success, given that he had a 17/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
As for his fit with the Astros, Jeffress may not be their best option. General manager James Click strongly implied that while the team is looking for additional bullpen help, they are looking for a reliever who can command the ninth inning. Jeffress has experience doing that, of course, but has only saved nine games the last two seasons combined.
The Astros would be wise to continue pursuing Jeffress. After all, you can never have too much bullpen help. But if the team is serious about landing a ninth inning arm, they should look toward Brad Hand, Alex Colome or Trevor Rosenthal instead.