General manager James Click told SportsTalk 790 that the Houston Astros don’t have to stay under the luxury tax line, according to owner Jim Crane’s authority. This allows more wiggle room at the trade deadline for an organization bordering their $210 million threshold.
This can allow trades for superstars like Craig Kimbrel, who was recently rumored as an option for the Astros. Currently, Houston is 16th in bullpen ERA in MLB (4.11) with the Oakland A’s (4.13) right behind them, who were also hinted to as a destination for Kimbrel.
With the Astros’ bullpen relying on optionable and aging arms, who could they turn to?
Josh James, Austin Pruitt and Pedro Baez are three pitchers looking to return from the 60-day injured list this season and somehow revive a shaky bullpen for the Astros. With Pruitt and James on rehab assignments in Triple-A, their returns should take longer than usual due to their injuries holding them out for months.
With a full 40-man roster, James and Pruitt would most likely take Tyler Ivey’s seat, as he could hit the major-league 60-day IL, while another roster spot that hasn’t been identified. To free open spots for trade, the Astros will have to either send current 40-man pitchers, start the service time clock on Forrest Whitley or Jairo Solis by adding them to the 60-day or DFA players.
Involving a current 40-man player in a trade for key reliever would benefit the team immensely, as they wouldn’t have to expose other players to waivers and lose out in the end. When a player is traded, the receiving team will pay the remainder of the salary in correlation to the point of the season unless negotiated differently in the trade. With luxury tax not restricting the team, here are three relievers I feel like are worth exploring.
Taylor Rogers, LHP
The bullpen only holds two left-handers in Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley, who has been deemed unreliable by many fans. While mainly an unlucky pitcher that gives into soft contact, carrying a third left-hander could come in handy with matchups. This is why Taylor Rogers is worth looking at.
The Minnesota Twins have played down this season, and with no evidence of a turn around, they look to be sellers at the deadline. Rogers has a 2.52 ERA through 35.2 innings this season with a 12.6 strikeout per nine (career high). His long movement to the plate comes with an arsenal of a slider and a sinker. He sits at a base salary of $6 million for this season.
Kendall Graveman, RHP
Trading within division can always be tricky for hardcore baseball rivals, but as we passed the halfway mark, the Seattle Mariners, who aren’t huge rivals with the Astros, could be dishing Kendall Graveman for a soon to be ready player. This is where someone like Abraham Toro could come in, as the switch-hitter is boosting his trade stock.
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For Graveman, the right-hander has posted a 1.03 ERA over 26.1 innings this season. He has never been a high strikeout pitcher (8.2 SO9 in 2021), but he has increasingly dropped his walk and home run rate this season. Although the luxury tax isn’t restricting the team, these pitchers aren’t making huge money, as Graveman is on a $500,000 contract.
Ian Kennedy, RHP
Of the three listed, Ian Kennedy stands the oldest and most experienced at 36-years-old. It is evident that the Texas Rangers aren’t contenders this season, and with Kennedy being in trade topics, the Astros could give their friends of north Texas a call about their reliever with a 2.86 ERA.
Over 28.1 innings this season, the right-hander has a 9.8 strikeout per nine (second highest of his career). This is what the Astros need for the backend of their bullpen with a lack of consistent strikeout pitchers. The club already has a closer, but lack of high-leverage is what they need resolved. He is also making $2.15 million in 2021, so two of these three arms could been reliable rentals that.