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Tuesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about closers, closers and more closers...

Some things to talk about while all your closers are belong to us...

1) More Robertson stuff

Did you hear about how the Astros may be the mystery team who offered $39 million over three years to free agent closer David Robertson? Well they did. Of course, I wrote about why Robertson made sense for the Astros on Friday and approved of the offer.

Not everyone was so charitable. Take Ken Rosenthal, for instance, who brings up some good counter-points.

It doesn't make sense. Let's get that out of the way right now. Closer are luxury items. They're the whipped cream on top of a championship sundae (i.e. superfluous). Bad teams that spend big for one look ridiculous, like what the Phillies did with Papelbon. Sure, he's been very good since then, but that giant contract now seems unmoveable unless Philly eats a big portion of it.

The difference between where the Phillies were and where the Astros are is in the future. Make fun of the SI cover all you want, but the truth is that this front office thinks the Astros are trending up. They made a dramatic improvement in the win column last season. They should make an incremental increase in wins next season, just based on young players improving.

How does that team get better? They could spend for a big-ticket third baseman. But, they traded for their hot corner of the future Colin Moran last summer and have a third-baseman-in-waiting behind him in former bonus baby Rio Ruiz. They have a franchise shortstop waiting in the wings in Carlos Correa, so it doesn't make sense to spend big on that position.

They already committed to Jon Singleton at first, so they don't want to add big money there. They could add in left field, but are swamped with (unproven) depth in the outfield, both in the majors and the minors.

That leaves the pitching staff. Houston could add a starter. They may do it, too, even with breakout seasons from Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. They certainly need to fix the bullpen, which was a tire fire for a second straight season.

Do they fix the bullpen with low-cost additions again? That failed last season, but the idea still seems solid. The proble fm from a long-term team-building strategy is that those relievers are often volatile. Mid-tier relievers may work for a year or two, but rarely stay effective past that point.

Few relievers can stay effective year after year. But, they do exist. As I said last week, I think Robertson's strikeout rate makes him one of them. What Houston's doing, then, is investing in that third year by getting Robertson now.

He may not make sense on the surface for many reasons, but he maybe fits the Astros vision for this team in 2017. Imagine how cool it'll be for him to close out the Series against the Cubbies.

2) Andrew Miller, too

After the Robertson news broke this weekend, Evan Drellich followed up with a source that says Houston could be interested in bringing in Andrew Miller to close. Miller won't be any cheaper than Robertson, but he doesn't draft pick compensation tied to him.

That's because he was traded from the Red Sox to the Orioles during the season and was, thus, ineligible for a qualifying offer.

While not losing a pick is a big upside for Miller, he's got some downsides. For one, the lefty has been injured in the past and only topped 60 inning last season as a reliever. He'd pitched as a starter previously and was a big part of the Marlins' return for Miguel Cabrera once upon a time.

Starters turned relievers can minimize injury risk by limiting innings, but it's still a risk. Also, there's the troubling fact that he's only been dominant for one season in the bullpen. Where Robertson has a track record of pretty much his entire MLB career of being solid in relief, Miller was an okay lefty specialist for two seasons before breaking out in a big way in 2014.

He does fit the Astros track record of taking non-closers and turning them into a commodity, but plenty of other teams are interested in Miller because he lacks pick compensation. That will depress David Robertson's market, but will raise Miller's past where Houston might want to pay.

3) Sergio Romo anyone?

If Houston strikes out on Robertson, they could turn to another name that hasn't drawn as much interest this winter. From Jon Heyman:

Romo is a fantastic candidate to rebound with the Astros. He's one of Keith Law's best buys on the market because his slider is still wildly effective. It sounds, though, like if Romo is brought in, he might fill in an eighth inning role.

Why? Because Chad Qualls, outside of a few Oakland meltdowns, was really, really good in 2014. In fact, compare his shutdown/meltdown count to Robertson. Qualls melted down less. Sure, he had less shut downs, but Houston was also not in as many save situations as the Yankees were (maybe...I think).

Adding Romo could be a low-cost move that improves the bullpen. You know how much I like those. Plus, imagine what Brent Strom and effective velocity could do for Romo. His fastball has never been a calling card, but if he could improve his effectiveness there just slightly, it could make his slider even better.

Plus, a move like this makes much more sense for the Astros front office, doesn't it?