The Houston Astros' offseason has been rather quiet. Outside of signing catcher Victor Caratini, the only real news this winter coming out of H-Town has been the retirement of manager Dusty Baker and outfielder Michael Brantley.
But the Astros cannot afford to just sit on their hands for the remainder of the offseason. While most of the front office's efforts are likely focused on restructuring the contracts of infielders Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, while also looking to extend outfielder Kyle Tucker, Houston can't neglect the team's bullpen heading into the upcoming season.
The Astros seem unlikely to bring back Hector Neris, but another former Houston reliever is still on the team's radar. The Astros missed out on signing Jordan Hicks, after the flamethrower signed a four-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, but another high-leverage arm is still a possibility.
Astros reportedly have 2 relievers on their free agency radar
According to Chandler Rome of The Athletic (subscription required), the Astros have not shown much interest in bringing Phil Maton back to Houston. However, Rome notes that a reunion between Maton and the Astros should not be dismissed.
The other reliever who's been on the Astros' radar this offseason is Robert Stephenson. Rome mentioned Houston's interest in the right-hander earlier this winter and Stephenson remains unsigned with about a month remaining until spring training begins.
Stephenson was a strikeout-artist last season. A first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds back in 2012, Stephenson punched out 77 batters in 52.1 innings pitched. The 30-year-old also posted a WHIP of 0.879; the lowest of his eight-year career.
The Astros aren't the only team interested in signing Stephenson this offseason, and the consensus among most MLB pundits is that the reliever may be able to garner a three or four-year contract.
If that's true, the Astros may shift their focus back to Maton. The right-hander made 68 appearances out of the Houston bullpen in 2023 and posted a 3.00 ERA while recording 74 strikeouts in 66 innings of work.
As it stands right now, the Astros have some high-dollar arms in their bullpen. The combined 2024 salary for Ryan Pressley, Kendall Graveman, and Rafael Montero is over $30 million. But reinforcements are still necessary. Whether it's Maton, Stephenson, or a series of smaller, under-the-radar signings, the Astros can no longer afford to overlook adding to their bullpen this offseason.