On the brink of summer, the Astro fans are rightfully upset with a bullpen that had problems closing out games in the 2017 playoffs and recently has struggled mightily closing out games in the 2018 regular season. As of June 1, the Astros were 7th in the AL in save conversion at 65% and seem to bring drama to every situation even when they are successful….especially Ken Giles.
So, what are the choices? Sure, you could move from Giles to another choice inside the organization like Hector Rondon, who was a closer for the Cubs for a couple of seasons or to Chris Devenski, who has been one of the Astros best, though over-worked relievers. Perhaps moving the very effective Collin McHugh to the back of the bullpen would be a better choice or even pulling Lance McCullers, who often has trouble going through lineups multiple times. But Rondon and Devo have both blown saves this season. McHugh has not shown he is going to be effective in back-to-back situations and you have to look at McCullers as emotional dynamite as a closer, as likely to melt down as to shut down.
It is fun to speculate on grabbing a top closer from another team, but frankly, the top closers on other teams are usually with contending teams and are not likely to be pried free to another contender. When you look at the MLB relievers with top save numbers and good ERAs and WHIPs, you might as well scratch-off the list Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrell, Cody Allen, Brad Boxberger, Sean Doolittle, Kenley Jensen, Brandon Morrow and Alex Colome, who was just traded for by the contending M’s.
So, you need to look at teams that are not contending and are not intending to contend for your best shots at closer help. Examples A and A1 may be Kelvin Herrera of the Royals and Brad Hand of the Padres.
- Two time All-Star in 2015 and 2016
- Has 12 saves for a team with only 21 wins on the season
- Sparkling 0.83 ERA and 0.738 WHIP
- Has not walked a batter in 21.2 IP
- Has been great in the playoffs – a 1.26 ERA in 26 innings
- As a rental will not cost that much in prospects
- Would be a rental with no guarantee on signing him after the season
- Was not good in 2017
- Does not have a postseason save
- Has been a high quality closer ever since joining the Padres in 2016
- Has 17 saves in his team’s 25 wins this season
- Has a strong 1.91 ERA and a 1.059 WHIP in 2018
- Is signed through 2019 for a total of approx. $17 million – could be kept in 2010 for another $10 million or bought out for $1 million
- Is a lefty reliever
- Will require a substantial haul of prospects for multi-years of control
- Has never pitched in the playoffs
- Could be argued that between his years with the Marlins and the Padres has never pitched in a significant pressure situation
- Has thrived in San Diego’s Petco Park which is a well-known pitcher’s paradise
What should the Astros do?
- Stick with Giles tight roping through the regular season with help from the rotation during the playoffs?
- Use Rondon, Devenski or McHugh from the current bullpen?
- Move McCullers to the closer’s spot and move McHugh into the rotation?
- Dip into the minors? Not much there as far as high-level closers – James Hoyt? Brendan McCurry?
- Trade for Herrera as a half-year rental?
- Trade for Hand as a longer term solution?
- Go after a dark horse like Blake Treinan (0.99 ERA and 13 saves) of the A’s or Raisel Iglesias (1.96 and 9 saves) of the Reds?
- Wait for more teams to play their way out of contention and add to the available pool of closers?
What would you do?