SECONDARY NEED: Left-Handed Reliever
OPTIONS: Joe Mantiply, Steven Okert, Andrew Chafin
With the acquisitions of Mancini and Vazquez, the Astros’ main focus should now be their relief corps. They do not have a single left-handed reliever on their roster, and their bullpen’s .206 average against versus left-handed hitters is tied for 2nd-best in MLB. They also have the best bullpen ERA in the league at 2.79. However, Mark Feinsand reported yesterday that they are seeking a left-handed reliever to compliment their righty-heavy bullpen, and while there are very few options that were established big-leaguers before this season, there are certainly quality players to be had.
The first is Joe Mantiply, who is one of the greatest success stories in baseball this year. The previously unheralded reliever hadn’t done much of anything in the majors before finding a home in Arizona during the Diamondbacks’ lost season of 2021. This year, he has emerged not only as their best reliever, but one of the best southpaws in the game, and with the Diamondbacks nowhere near contention yet again, he is a candidate to be on the move. He’s 31 and will be under team control until 2027, so his cost will be higher than that of a rental. However, it could be worth it for the first-time All-Star: his brilliant sinker/curveball combo have led him to a 2.35 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 38.1 innings. His 85-mph average exit velocity, 1.3% walk rate, and 2.52 Statcast xERA are also among the best figures in the league.
Another possible target is Miami’s Steven Okert, who is another underrated name that will also be under team control until 2027. Okert’s impressive 2.72 ERA and 11.4 K/9 are offset somewhat by a control issue; his 4.2 BB/9 figure is one of the worst in baseball. That is to be somewhat expected by a guy who throws sliders 70% of the time, however. Okert is still a valuable piece of the Marlins’ bullpen, as his expected batting average against is an impressive .182 and his xERA is 3.13 according to Statcast. This indicates that his 4.91 FIP isn’t as alarming as it normally would be, given the fact that he allows very little high-quality contact.
The Tigers’ Andrew Chafin would normally be the easiest of these options to acquire. He’s a pure rental and has a 2.53 ERA, 2.21 FIP, and 11 K/9 in 32 innings this year. However, he is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and had to miss a recent series in Toronto because of that. The reason this is of importance is that every current member of the Astros is vaccinated, and it’s possible that the front office wants that to remain the case. On the other hand, Chafin’s vaccination status could change in the event that the Astros have to face the Blue Jays in the postseason. Regardless, he has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game this season, and he would be yet another dominant piece in an already elite bullpen.
Of all the trade possibilities for the Astros to pursue, acquiring a reliever would have the most complications in terms of the roster. Every single member of their bullpen has either been an established major leaguer for years, or is in the process of becoming one this year. If they do decide to get a left-handed reliever, Phil Maton is probably the easiest candidate to get cut as of now; his 5.11 FIP and 1.7 HR/9 are the worst on the staff by a considerable amount.