The Houston Rays: the players with ties to James Click
The Houston Astros have started to look different than in years past with only six players from the 2017 team still on the 40-man roster. In a new era with James Click as General Manager and Dusty Baker as Manager, Houston is building off two different minds, and in recent months we have seen Click sign players with ties to his former employer: the Tampa Bay Rays.
Click has made a few smaller signings this offseason that addressed lower ended needs, and as the biggest signing being Michael Brantley’s return, the Astros front office has moved away from big spending. The players connected to the former Rays’ front office employee are RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Ryne Stanek and OF Steven Souza Jr. along with the trade for RHP Austin Pruitt that was made before Click was hired in 2020.
What could these Rays signings by James Click mean for Houston?
In the short term, not much other than the fact that these players are the ones Click oversaw and watched, while he was in the front office in Tampa. Other than international signings, three of Click’s nine signings this offseason have played for Tampa Bay, and those three all played together on the 2017 Rays team including the injured Pruitt.
While the closing role hasn’t been assigned, Steve Cishek is the front runner, although being signed to a minor league deal. Of all these former Rays, the right-hander will make the most money and was signed to a minor league deal due to the 40-man roster being full. He is pretty much guaranteed a roster spot come Spring Training and has the best chance of being the closer come April. The veteran sidewinder will be the second unorthodox thrower in the Astros bullpen behind Joe Smith. Pitching coach Brent Strom praised the the way the Rays ran their pitching as well.
The addition of Ryne Stanek came as a surprise when the Astros were in the running for a big name closer, but the right-hander could add versatility for Houston. Out of all the healthy bullpen arms, Stanek has the best chance to be the long reliever or opener if the Astros take a bullpen day. While coming with a good fastball, the secondary pitches will be something Pitching Coach Brent Strom will have to work on with Stanek.
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The Astros outfielding depth was met in the signing of Steven Souza Jr. While on a minor league deal, Souza could play to the level of a fourth outfielder, while Houston tests the development of their prospects and Jose Siri. His recent stat line has shown he has had a regressed career after injury, but if the Astros see a year of usage in him, then he could be optioned and be on the roster when needed. If he wants to be the everyday fourth outfielder, then he should hope Houston doesn’t sign another centerfielder to replace Myles Straw at the moment.
Although there are star players on the free agency block, the Astros could either be saving until their 40-man frees up or when they hit the trade deadline in late July. There is around $10 million left in spending per Spotrac, so the Astros have the chance to sign players to fill their need within the coming weeks. One thing to remember is if Cishek is making the 40-man roster than it will come to 39, once Josh James and Justin Verlander are moved to the injured list.
All these players combined would make up to about $4.35 million, that is a real Tampa Bay mentality. As a team known for their small market baseball plus their limited spending, they have made two World Series through analytical and developmental baseball rather than signing the big names.