Astros lose former dominant reliever to division rival after Houston flirtation

A key bullpen arm for the Astros the last few years just signed with one of the worst possible teams.

Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

One of the biggest storylines this offseason for the Houston Astros was the sheer amount of relievers they lost to free agency. While Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu stuck around to handle the late frames, the Astros lost a huge chunk of innings when Hector Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek hit the open market.

All three of those guys now have new teams heading into the 2024 season. Hector Neris severely overestimated his market and ended up having to take a one-year deal with the Cubs. Meanwhile, the criminally underrated Maton landed with the Rays, which is never a good sign for the team that loses out on a player.

As for Stanek, he had to wait a lot longer to find a new team. However, it was just revealed he found a suitor to his liking with the start of the regular season just a few weeks away. The bad news is that his new team is a chief Astros division rival: the Mariners stole Stanek away.

Astros lose Ryan Stanek to the division-rival Mariners

As Chandler Rome noted, it appears as though Houston had some level of interest in reuniting with Stanek this offseason. The right-hander was awesome in 2022 with a 1.12 ERA in 59 appearances, so they clearly knew he had plenty of upside as a bullpen arm. However, Stanek has been maddeningly inconsistent beyond that 2022 season and his FIP suggests that some of his success has been driven largely by strong defense behind him and good ol' fashioned batted ball luck.

Given that, it may have been wise for the Astros to move on from Stanek especially with Josh Hader in the fold and some promising bullpen candidates in camp. However, having a guy that provided a lot of really important innings and who intimately knows how the Astros operate sign with a division rival like the Mariners is still a tough pill to swallow. We'll know more once the financial terms of Stanek's deal are revealed as to how bad it was to lose out on his services.

If it is any consolation, the Astros still look like they are right there with the Rangers as the class of the AL West. The Mariners' bullpen did just improve a little bit with the Stanek signing, and their offense should be a bit better as well, but they do still appear be behind both Texas and Houston on paper heading into 2024.

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