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The Astros could hit the jackpot with Steve Cishek

Houston made a good beat by signing 11-season veteran Cishek to a Minors deal.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Astros inked righty reliever Steve Cishek to a Minor League deal (NRI) that will pay him $2.25MM with incentives if he makes the Major League roster. Even though that’s not the signing you might have been expecting, it could be a pretty good one for Houston.

Think of Cishek as a low-risk bet that could go really well for the Astros. We all know that if the veteran sidearmer pitches as he did in 2020, there will be nothing to be happy about. He wasn’t good at all for the Chicago White Sox across 20 innings (5.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9), but here’s when the bet comes into play.

Cishek will enter Spring Training needing to earn a spot in Dusty Baker’s bullpen. If he makes it there, he’ll immediately become the most experienced (and arguably the most accomplished) reliever in that ‘pen, even with Ryan Pressly and Pedro Báez in it. That would definitely play a role, considering how young the Astros’ relievers staff is.

The 34-year-old has 11 Major League seasons, almost 600 career games (594), and almost 600 innings (576) under his belt. And the best part of everything —and the reason why I think there’s some upside— is Cishek has been effective throughout the majority of his MLB career.

He’s even compiled 132 saves as the former closer of the Miami Marlins and the Seattle Mariners. Since 2011, there are only four hurlers with more games than Cishek in the bigs: Tyler Clippard, Tony Watson, Bryan Shaw, and Kenley Jansen.

Cishek has recorded a sub-3.00 ERA in seven of his 10 full seasons, including four consecutive campaigns from 2016 to 2019. And except for 2020, he’s been notably effective against righties in his career: .204/.270/.301.

Not only would Steve help Astros’ young relievers if he ends up making the Astros’ Opening Day roster after a nice spring showing, but he also can be an important, established arm for Baker, along with Báez and Pressly. The job is Cishek’s to lose.