The Houston Astros were dealt the wrong card once again, as experience reliever Pedro Baez fell to the 60-day injured list with an undisclosed reason. The right-hander battled a positive COVID-19 case in spring training that delayed his progression and then shoulder soreness that placed him on the 10-day IL.
With that in mind, the Astros’ 40-man is back to being full, while it looks very different from the start of spring training. As Kent Emanuel makes his splash after his suspension, the bullpen is still seeing early struggles in command and injury. While Josh James, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Blake Taylor are all on the 10-day IL, the Astros could explore two free agency arms that could add experience to a young core.
For some odd reason, Shane Greene and Jeremy Jeffress are still unemployed.
Shane Greene and Jeremy Jeffress were not snatched up at the end of free agency, although Jeffress was released by the Washington Nationals for an undisclosed reason early in spring training. These two right-handers would add high leverage talent in the seventh and eighth innings.
As Shane Greene is a former closer and All-Star reliever, the right-hander wasn’t in much chatter this past offseason. While with the Atlanta Braves in 2020, Greene tossed 27.2 innings in the regular season with a 2.60 ERA. The right-hander almost pitched in half of their games with an eye catching ERA but still doesn’t have a job. Greene, now 32-years-old, had one of his lowest walk rates (2.9) and home runs (0.7) per nine innings ever in his career in his last major league season.
The issue circling a backend of the rotation arm could be his strikeout rate dropping from 9.2 (2019) to 6.8 per nine. While his advanced metrics aren’t showing an elite arm on the mound, Greene comes with an arsenal of five pitches mostly dominated by a sinker and a cutter. While mainly a soft-contact pitcher, the right-hander would still be an impactful arm in the backend of the bullpen, but with the 40-man roster full, it would be hard to add either pitcher.
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The ballad of Jeremy Jeffress is one of the most interesting stories that has no rhyme or reason for why he is still in free agency. Although signing a minor league deal with the Nationals, the right-hander has outed his former agent for blackballing him off the minds’ of major league front offices.
While taking the reigns of the closing role from Craig Kimbrel in 2020, the former Chicago Cub posted a 1.54 ERA through 23.1 innings of work. His strikeout rate did drop immensely like that of Greene. As bullpen arms are easily replaceable in free agency or with in house talent, it makes sense that he is not getting a long-term investment offer from teams. In the eyes of Baseball Savant, the right-hander wasn’t anywhere close to what his ERA said, as he was in the lower end of effective production.
While money is always a reoccurring issue this offseason, the Astros haven’t looked like they want to border the luxury tax threshold in recent roster moves. Although these two pitchers have had effective seasons recently, it has almost been a month in and they would most likely settle for minor league deals. One pitcher that could possibly see his time slipping away with the Astros is Joe Smith, who has had early season struggles, and while making $4 million this year, the business of the game could end his tenure in Houston.
Although I explored this thought before, it would behoove the Astros to at least workout one of these arms to see where they stand at a big league level. It will take time for these pitchers to progress back to their major league talent, while not having a spring training, but you can’t go wrong with another experienced arm in the bullpen.