Previewing the Astros' bullpen candidates who could replace Neris, Stanek, and Maton

The Astros back of the bullpen is elite. Before the game gets to Abreu, Pressly, and Hader, there are plenty of questions.

Houston Astros Workout
Houston Astros Workout / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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The Astros made one of the biggest splashes of free agency in quite surprising fashion, signing Josh Hader to a five-year mega-deal. Hader has unseated Ryan Pressly as the closer, while Pressly will return to his roots as a setup man.

With Bryan Abreu, Pressly, and Hader in the back of the bullpen, the Astros have the best seventh-ninth inning arms in the game. But did Houston do enough?

Yes, Hader is elite, but he will only throw around 60 innings this year. With Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, and Hector Neris playing elsewhere, the Astros had over 200 innings from their bullpen to replace. The injury to Kendall Graveman made Hader an essential addition, but they still have some patchwork to do.

Previewing the Astros' bullpen options to replace Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton

As of now, they've signed Hader and traded for a bunch of minor-league relievers. So if a starter gets rocked early, who will throw the fourth-sixth innings? When Abreu and Pressly appear in back-to-back outings, who bridges the gap to Hader?

It's worth examining the Astros' middle relief bullpen options.

Rafael Montero

Rafael Montero is a shoo-in to make the Astros bullpen next year. Why? Simply because of his contract. Houston isn't going to DFA Montero with two years remaining on his contract, so they are stuck with the one-hit wonder in the pen.

Montero was lights out in 2022, and was paid handsomely for it, before regressing mightily to his career norms in 2023. He was arguably the worst reliever in baseball in the first half, but did show signs down the stretch, posting a 3.10 ERA in the second half (though his WHIP was still inflated at 1.45).

It would obviously be incredible if Montero can regain his 2022 form, but Houston just needs him to be a high 3.00-low 4.00 ERA guy. If Montero can do this, their bullpen will be in great shape. With the injury to Graveman, Montero likely enters camp as the reliever most likely in line to handle the sixth inning.