The Houston Astros added a major piece to their bullpen last week after signing Josh Hader to a five-year, $95 million contract. Now the highest-paid reliever in the game, Hader will undoubtedly be installed as Houston's closer heading into the 2024 season.
But what does that mean for Ryan Pressly? The longtime Astros reliever will certainly have a different role heading into the upcoming season. Pressly has been Houston's closer since 2019 and recorded 31 saves just last season.
How will new manager Joe Espada stack his bullpen in 2024? Will Pressly receive the ball in the ninth inning during any game next season? Is the 35-year-old comfortable working earlier in games? There might be more questions than answers at the moment, but according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic (subscription required), the Astros talked with Pressly before signing Hader.
Will Astros' reliever Ryan Pressly accept forfeiting the closer role?
Ryan Pressly was described as being "all in" by his manager. And why shouldn't he be? After seeing so many talented relievers leave via free agency this offseason, Pressly was likely jumping for joy at the idea of bringing Josh Hader into the fold and adding some much-needed depth to Houston's relief corps.
At times, all of us have a tendency to be a bit protective about our jobs, and Pressly is likely no different. However, there's reason to believe that Pressly will still have several opportunities to lock things down in the ninth inning during the 2024 season.
Hader did not pitch more than a single inning one time last season. So if Espada brings Hader in during the ninth inning of a tie game and Pressly is still in the bullpen, chances are good that the Astros' skipper will turn to the veteran in extra innings (even though FanSided's Robert Murray indicated on Monday's episode of The Baseball Insiders that Hader will be more amenable to multi-inning duty after being paid long-term).
Astros reliever Ryan Pressly could see several opportunities to close out games in 2024.
The fact that Hader is a southpaw also works in Pressly's favor. There may be instances next season when the left-handed thumpers in the opponent's batting order are due in the eighth inning of a tight game. If that occurs, it's easy to surmise that the Astros may turn to Hader one inning earlier than normal and then run out Pressly for the ninth.
The bottom line is the Astros aren't just going to shove aside a postseason icon like Pressly. The right-hander has 12 World Series appearances with two saves to his name and an ERA of 2.19 on the biggest stage in baseball. That's something you don't just replace. However, his role might look different during the regular season.
Pressly is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and has a mutual option for 2025. While his future beyond this upcoming season may be in doubt, the reliever is ready to (temporarily) be part of one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. With Bryan Abreu in the back end of the Astros bullpen as well, teams better get ahead of Houston early, because it's going to be tough to score runs late.