The Houston Astros need to bolster their bullpen ahead of the 2024 season, and yet, have done nothing. It's been a running theme this offseason, and the latest news doesn't make the situation any better. Astros GM Dana Brown has been sitting on his hands and it now appears that it could cost Houston once again.
According to MLB Insider Bruce Levine of 670 The Score, during an appearance on The Mully and Haugh Show, the Chicago Cubs have expressed interest in adding former Astros reliever Ryne Stanek. Levine also mentioned Robert Stephenson as a potential addition to the Chicago relief corps. Stephenson, of course, has been linked to Houston this offseason as well.
The Astros bullpen has taken numerous hits this offseason. Stanek, Phil Maton and Hector Neris are all on the open market at the moment, and it was reported earlier this week that right-handed reliever Kendall Graveman underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. The Astros also fell short in the Yariel Rodriguez sweepstakes. Things are going from bad to worse (unless, of course, Houston is able to close the Josh Hader pursuit with a tidy bow).
Cubs could get in Astros’ way to reunite with Ryne Stanek
It's beginning to sound like a broken record at this point, but the Astros have to do something about the ever-expanding hole in the bullpen. Houston, in good conscience, cannot go into the 2024 season without one of Stanek, Neris or Maton returning, or without Ryan Pressly being pushed down the depth chart for a marquee addition.
Throw in Graveman, and that quartet accounted for 217 relief appearances and over 200 innings of work last season. Houston has no shot of repeating as AL West Champions if those innings are covered by some veteran arms this coming season.
Stanek, 32, didn't have his best performance in 2023. The right-hander was 3-1 with a 4.09 ERA and only 51 punchouts in 50.2 innings pitched. The year prior, however, Stanek was lights out, and posted an astonishing 1.15 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per nine innings.
That said, command and control have been an issue for Stanek in the past. His career walk-rate of 12% may be the biggest reason that Houston has yet to re-sign the former first-round pick.
Whether it's Stanek, Neris or Maton, the Astros need to act and re-sign one of the reliable relievers before spring training. Dana Brown can then look to some lower-cost free agent relievers like Wandy Peralta, Matt Barnes or Matt Moore to help fill out the bullpen heading into Opening Day.