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FIVE affordable, efficient options for the Astros’ bullpen in free agency

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From a submariner to a 100-MPH guy, enjoy this list of pitchers that could help the Astros have a better bullpen in ‘21.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, during a videoconference with reporters via Zoom, manager Dusty Baker admitted the Astros are seeking bullpen help for next season. After all, the Astros ‘pen accounted for 16 of the 31 team losses in 2020 and recorded a 4.39 ERA that, even though it wasn’t the worst of the league, it’s not ideal.

Besides, Houston is facing the departures of Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, and Roberto Osuna, just to name a few.

For that reason, we took a look at the free-agent board and brought you five affordable options that could give a much-needed helping hand to the Astros (with no specific order). Let’s dive in...

1. RHP Darren O’Day

Do you like submarines? Well, with O’Day’s numbers, you surely will. The 38-year-old has proved he still has gas in the tank. He’s been one of the most solid (and underrated) relievers in the game at least since 2009, with only one bad season, which came with the Rangers, back in 2011.

Go to Stathead and search for pitchers with a minimum of 500 games since 2009, sorted by ERA. What did you find? Oh, right, O’Day’s in third place (2.35), behind only Craig Kimbrel’s 2.17 and Aroldis Chapman’s 2.25.

This season, the righty cruised with the Atlanta Braves across 19 games. Won four games, didn’t lose, and struck out 22 hitters in 16 13 innings on just eight hits and five walks. He supported all those stats with a 2.76 FIP and a 0.796 WHIP. He averages 86.0 MPH with his fastball, but HE’LL GET YOU OUT, in part thanks to a paltry 83.9 MPH exit velocity.

2. RHP Yusmeiro Petit

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

I mentioned the word underrated right above, didn’t I? Because if everyone here thinks O’Days is underrated, then you have to know Yusmeiro Petit, a guy that people probably never talk about, but who gets the job done. Since turned completely into a reliever, the Venezuelan veteran has been pretty valuable and efficient.

Since 2017, he’s tied with Andrew Chafin for most appearances in baseball (240), but with the difference that Petit has a better ERA (2.74 vs. 3.64), gives up fewer walks (4.6% vs. 9.8%), and has thrown 126 innings more than Chafin.

In 2020 with the Oakland Athletics, the 36-year-old Petit pitched to a 1.66 ERA and a 1.108 WHIP in 21 23 frames on the bump, with 17 strikeouts and only five bases on balls. And even though there’s a huge gap between his ERA and his 4.11 FIP, he’s been successful in the past with the same scenario.

3. RHP Evan Marshall

Marshall was just nasty for the White Sox in 2020. After overcoming struggles, injuries, and subpar performances, the 30-year-old shone for Chicago in the past two years. If you check out his percentile rankings on Baseball Savant, you’ll probably fall in love with this California native. Take a look at them...

And in case you’re wondering about that low fastball velocity, easy... It’s not the fastball that is his plus pitch but his changeup and his curveball.

Everything changed for him when he discovered that his changeup could be among the best in baseball. Since 2018, Marshall began throwing it more often and results have been undeniable: .158 batting average against (22-for-139), with only eight extra-base hits (two home runs) and 46 punchouts.

In short, it’s the pitch he uses to get out of jams. If not, watch how Marshall came back using two changeups to strike out Cubs’ Jason Heyward, on September 26:

And, kids, this is what a filthy changeup looks like...

That helped him have a 2.38 ERA with a 2.04 FIP and a 1.059 WHIP across 22 23 episodes (30 strikeouts) before hitting the open market.

4. LHP Justin Wilson

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming lefty Framber Valdez will spend all 2021 as part of the starting rotation, Dusty Baker will need to have another left-handed option besides Blake Taylor. And that one could very well be Justin Wilson, a nine-year veteran that has pitched for the Yankees, the Cubs, and the Mets, among others.

In 2020, he threw 19 23 innings of 3.66 ERA across 23 appearances for the Mets, while being almost untouchable against left-handed hitters: .115/.207/.231 off Wilson. The most intriguing thing with Wilson is he’s always been better against righties, but wasn’t that effective against them this year. Imagine if, in 2020, he recovers that condition and keeps being great also facing lefties...

Another positive aspect about Wilson is he has something you look for in a reliever: he can prevent hard contact. This year, the 33-year-old was among the best in exit velocity (84.5 MPH) and hard-hit percentage (28.3%). Wilson might be one of the relievers the Astros are needing, no doubt.

5. RHP Trevor Rosenthal

MLB: Wildcard-St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get fooled by his 2020 postseason performance, he was stellar in ‘20 and is among the top relievers available in free agency. Rosenthal seems to have left his command struggles behind (at least a bit), especially by judging his late-season performance with the Padres, who acquired him from the Royals.

I like Rosenthal a lot because he has experience, he throws hard, he strikes out a lot of hitters, and he can CLOSE — good if Ryan Pressly gets injured or goes through a rough patch. He might be the most expensive option of this group, as the 30-year-old is projected to sign for two years and $14M according to MLB Trade Rumors, but don’t think that figure is impossible to afford for the Astros.

With Rosenthal, everything can go REALLY WELL or REALLY BAD, but let’s assume he will maintain his 2020 success: 1.90 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 0.845 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 14.5 K/9, .132 XBA, .265 XSLG, 41.8 K%.

I bet Ramón Laureano is still looking for this 100-MPH fastball. He just didn’t see it...

Honorable mentions:

  • RHP Mark Melancon
  • RHP Ian Kennedy
  • RHP Blake Treinen
  • RHP Archie Bradley

Which one would you like best to join the Astros? Tell us in the comments! ⚾️