With arbitration now out of the way, the Houston Astros can now finally turn their attention to the rest of the offseason. While there are upgrades that the Astros could make at multiple places on the roster, the bullpen is where their primary focus needs to be. Given that Hector Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek all left and on the open market and Houston has limited payroll room, this is easier said than done.
Fortunately, it does look like the Astros are at least entertaining the idea of pursuing relievers that are going to cost real money. Houston had been connected to free agent flamethrower Jordan Hicks recently which bodes well about the Astros' willingness to spend to fill out their bullpen. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Hicks would require a four year, $40 million contract this offseason which would be a sizable investment to be sure.
It was expected that the Yankees were going to be Houston's chief competition for Hicks' services which was pretty much a nightmare scenario. However, the Giants just swooped in out of nowhere and signed Hicks to a four year, $44 million deal...to be a starter?
There was no way the Astros would have let Jordan Hicks be a starter
The details matter here because on the surface, this looks like yet another guy the Astros should have signed getting away. However, the Giants appear to be one of probably few teams that are willing to give Hicks the chance to be a starter. Hicks started his pro career as a rotation arm, but command issues and that tantalizing fastball of his were too much for the Cardinals to resist and they developed him as a bullpen arm.
Look, if the Giants are able to pull off converting him back into a starting pitcher, good for them. They are a team that needs to be creative to get back into contention. However, that isn't what the Astros need. They need to add high upside relief arms that are actually going to pitch out of the bullpen. If that was a dealbreaker for Hicks, then so be it and San Francisco can be the ones to figure out how to get a guy that struggles to find the zone in one inning to go five innings every fifth day without allowing a zillion baserunners.
That said, another Astros bullpen target is off the market. Robert Stephenson remains on the market who isn't all that dissimilar from Hicks in terms of cost and upside and hopefully the Astros check in on him. If they don't, Houston may find themselves in trouble as the reliever market continues to thin out.