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Astros: Examining how Steve Cishek can make the 40-man

Mar 10, 2021; Jupiter, Florida, USA; Houston Astros non-roster pitcher Steve Cishek (31) delivers a pitch during the third inning of a spring training game between the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2021; Jupiter, Florida, USA; Houston Astros non-roster pitcher Steve Cishek (31) delivers a pitch during the third inning of a spring training game between the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Houston Astros have had a tricky offseason and spring with injuries and filling the hole in centerfield. While Myles Straw is progressing well in spring training, the front office jumped all over Jake Odorizzi, after Framber Valdez hurt his finger. Although, this move could hurt the chances of Steve Cishek making the roster.

As reported, Valdez will not be having surgery, but we do not have a timetable on his return just yet. This affects the 40-man roster in so many ways. If his finger is healing well, then why move him to the 60-day injured list? Looking further, Pedro Baez will need to make his way back to the 40-man, but moving Forrest Whitley to the injured list would start his service clock affecting the team greatly.

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How could Cishek make the Astros’ roster?

With the 40-man currently full, the front office will likely be making moves in the coming days to add Baez back to it. The right-hander tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month and has been in quarantine, but now he is back in camp, ready to take his spot back. We have seen an abundance of roster cuts of minor leaguers in the past week, but there hasn’t been an MLB experienced non-roster invite let go. While there is only three, Steve Cishek is the front runner to make the roster.

The right-hander has appeared in five games this spring, while surrendering three runs across 5.2 innings (4.76). All three of the runs came off home runs in his first outing, but they also came off a changeup that the sidewinder had been working on. Cishek has fanned nine batters since and has bounced back significantly.

At the time of his signing, it looked like the Astros were banking on him to make the Opening Day roster, and the reason he was on a minor league deal was due to the fact the 40-man roster was full. For an aging player, this looked to be a good contract, but his $2.25 million contract would push the organization over the luxury tax threshold. This move could put the Astros in a place to lose a draft pick or be penalized.

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The right-hander has been an expected roster move, but after the Odorizzi signing, it becomes even trickier to move him to the bullpen. At this moment, Baez might not be fully ramped up in time for Opening Day, which would mean Andre Scrubb would be a clear candidate to make the roster while also leaving space for one more bullpen arm.

The team would have to either designate a pitcher for assignment, while hoping they get outrighted to the minor leagues, or trade to free open a spot. This leaves a few of the pitchers with expiring options like Brandon Bielak and Novaldo Rodriguez in a situation to be moved, although being effective pitchers at certain moments. A move like this wouldn’t benefit the team since letting go pitchers with options isn’t worth it.

Of the three MLB experienced non-roster invites, Cishek has had the best spring progression to make the roster. He might not be the closer he once was, but the Astros could use the veteran down the road. General Manger James Click would need to free open enough space financially and also a roster spot to add the right-hander, while also leaving possible wiggle room for the trade-deadline come late July. The luxury tax threshold is also not dealt with until the end of the season, so if the Astros are wanting to go all in and deal with this issue at a later date, then this is the best time to do it.

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