One of the downsides of the Houston Astros having so many guys performing well is that other teams around the league take notice, which inevitably means that players end up going elsewhere. Over the last two seasons, Hector Neris established himself as a high quality reliever who was a part of some big moments for the Astros. After posting a career season in 2023, Neris' decision to opt out of his contract and test free agency was disappointing, but hardly unexpected.
What was surprising was the deal he ended up signing this offseason. For most of the last few months, the rumor was that Neris was looking to sign for big reliever money, but he ended up settling on a one year, $9 million deal with the Cubs. Regardless of where he signed and for how much, the Astros made a really classy gesture by giving him a fond farewell.
A Hector Neris return to the Astros wasn't in the cards, but he was still appreciated
While many fans held out hope that the Astros could reunite with Neris this offseason, a reunion never seemed close to reality. Neris' contract demands were reportedly high early on, and once Houston signed Josh Hader to push them into uncharted spending territory, Neris seemed pre-destined to play for a new team this coming season.
Neris' time with the Astros should be appreciated, though, and it is nice to see the team recognizing him. He was a key cog in the team's bullpen for two deep postseason runs -- including a World Series title -- and he consistently gave them tons of quality innings across his two seasons in Houston. It doesn't hurt that Neris signed with a National League team, but he deserved to be thanked for his service regardless of where he ended up.
With Neris now off the market, the slate of former Astros that are still free agents continues to get whittled down. Most notable among the group are Neris' teammates in the Astros' bullpen, Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek. Both have been generating heavy interest of late, but still don't have contracts in place for 2024.