The Houston Astros haven't had a good left-handed reliever for some time. No team in baseball uses lefties less than Houston. So with a great left-hander on the market available for cheap, surely Houston would have had some interest, no?
For all of the rumors linking them to Jordan Hicks or Yariel Rodriguez, the Astros were somewhat surprisingly never linked to Brent Suter. Unfortunately, Suter just signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $2.5 million, with a club option for $3.5 million in 2025.
It's very likely the Astros may come to regret not paying that deal.
The Astros should have signed Brent Suter
Signing Suter for that deal would have pushed the Astros over the first CBT threshold, yes, and they are operating under a self-imposed budget, but if they were ever even slightly interested in Hicks and Rodriguez, both of whom are far more expensive and commanding longer-term deals, why not sign Suter?
Though the bullpen has been a massive strength in recent history, after losing Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton in free agency, they no longer possess the depth that has made their bullpen elite in previous years.
Self-imposed cap restraints or not, right now Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu are Houston's only surefire relievers. Kendall Graveman is a proven leverage arm, but he's battled injury and decreasing command as time has gone on, Rafael Montero was the worst reliever in baseball for the first half of the season, Bennett Sousa was dominant in his brief Houston tenure but is largely unproven, and beyond that, they're looking at some combination of Parker Mushinski, Matt Gage, Seth Martinez, Ronel Blanco, or a recent flier like Dylan Coleman/internal promotion like Forrest Whitley to round out their bullpen.
That's not exactly the fearsome stable they've had before.
Suter posted a 3.38 ERA in 2023 with a 3.44 FIP. Away from the cavernous Coors Field, he had a 3.13 with a 1.10 WHIP. He's a soft-contact machine, with an average exit velocity in the 100th percentile, hard-hit percentage in the 99th percentile, and barrel percentage in the 97th percentile. His 3.23 xERA was good for the 88th percentile.
Suter would have been a fantastic mid-leverage arm, and he cost next to nothing when compared to other relievers they've been linked too.
Assuming Graveman can stay healthy, Houston could have felt really good about their bullpen with a top four of Pressly, Abreu, Graveman and Suter. If they unlocked something sustainable in Bennett Sousa last year and Dylan Coleman can find his form from 2022, now they're looking at a really special bullpen.
Instead, now Houston is banking on strictly fliers. One of the relievers they claimed off of waivers or a guy they shuttled back and forth between the big league roster and AAA has to stick. They aren't going to find a better reliever on the free agent market for cheaper than Suter.
It wouldn't have been a signing that made a lot of noise throughout the industry, but Houston will regret not signing Brent Suter.