If the Houston Astros acquire a relief pitcher at the deadline, this reliever could be in danger of losing his spot on the roster.
Position players have been the primary need for some time for the Houston Astros, but if they also decide to join the already-crowded relief pitching market, a roster move will need to occur. Their bullpen is arguably the best in baseball, as it leads the majors in ERA, but it features exclusively right-handed pitchers and could use a little bit more depth. Of course, no big-name reliever is needed, and acquiring just one arm would probably suffice. However, if such a trade is made, it might spell the end of Phil Maton’s tenure in Houston.
Maton is a good strikeout pitcher and can be used for length, as evidenced by his scoreless 1.2 innings this week against Oakland. However, it comes at a cost. He allows nearly a base hit per inning, and his WHIP sits at 1.25. His 3.46 ERA isn’t the highest on the staff, but a FIP of 5.11 is simply not good enough for a contending team. Maton leads the bullpen in innings pitched, so he has been given every opportunity to prove himself, but he ultimately has not had a good season and his peripherals suggest it will get worse.
He hasn’t been bad in July, but it still might be too late for him. The month of June saw him post an ERA of 5.00, walking 6 batters and giving up 3 home runs in just 9 innings despite his 16 strikeouts. For comparison’s sake, Hector Neris has the highest ERA in the bullpen at 3.73, but his 2.76 FIP indicates that he has been on the receiving end of some tough luck on contact against. Neris also has a 0.98 WHIP, identical to that of Rafael Montero, who has arguably been the best reliever on the team.
To have a roster spot hanging in the balance as a reliever with a 3.46 ERA is a good indicator that the bullpen as a whole has set a high bar for itself, which Houston’s has, but Maton has been worse than that ERA indicates this season. Even if Click only brings in a pedestrian bullpen reinforcement, Maton’s time with the team could be over, whether that be via an ensuing trade or something else.