The Astros have had a real dud of an offseason this year. Either they're operating in silence and are keeping their cards close to their chest, or they just don't feel much urgency to make additions to their roster. They've only signed one free agent so far: catcher Victor Caratini joined as a backup to Yainer Diaz. A smattering of minor league deals have been doled out, but as far as the team we'll see take the field next season? It's looking pretty much the same as this year's.
That's not to say the Astros don't have needs, because their pitching needs some help across the board. Their connections to free agent pitchers have been either short or tenuous, but maybe something is finally in the works in Houston. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required), the Astros have touched base with reliever Jordan Hicks.
Astros reportedly target Jordan Hicks to bolster bullpen
Houston's interest in Hicks isn't new; Jon Heyman reported it during Winter Meetings, along with a handful of teams including the Rangers, Cardinals, and Orioles. The Yankees have also been thrown into the mix since then, but nothing solid has materialized yet. The attraction makes sense: this year's free agent market is saturated with starting pitchers of all kinds, but fewer top-to-mid-tier relievers. Predictions for Hicks' next contract see him earning about $10 million a year, for the next three or four years.
In his four and a half seasons with the Cardinals, Hicks closed 60 games and appeared in 187, pitching to a 3.98 ERA. He's known for his velocity (his fastball averages 100.1 MPH), but has oftentimes struggled with control. In 25 games for the Blue Jays this year, he only closed 10 games, as the ball more often went to closer Jordan Romano, and seemed to be in good form in Toronto with a 2.63 ERA.
He has a history of injury — he underwent Tommy John in 2019 and has go onto the 15- or 60- day IL three times since then with arm issues — but it clearly isn't affecting his velocity which, coupled with the fact that the free agent pool is slim, has made his free agency competitive. With the Astros, he could alternate with Ryan Pressly in the closer role, or be used in both spot or longer reliever roles.