The Astros have had one of the better collective bullpens in all of baseball this season, but GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that he’ll still be on the lookout for a hard-throwing bullpen arm this month. “I think you can always use another good arm,” said Luhnow. “You look at the arms we have in the bullpen: we’ve got a sinker baller, a slider guy, different looks. Neshek is a funky guy. The one guy we’re probably missing is the flamethrower guy. …but those guys are hard to find. Certainly we’re going to keep our eyes open.”
Houston has received an excellent return on its offseason investment in Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Joe Thatcher. The trio of veteran relievers have combined to deliver a 2.96 ERA in 82 innings of relief this year, and they’ve been complemented nicely by waiver claim Will Harris (0.93 ERA), left-hander Tony Sipp (3.19) and right-hander Josh Fields (2.57).
Given the success of the current group, it’s not all that surprising to see Luhnow categorize the addition of a hard-throwing reliever to be more of a luxury than a necessity. As Drellich notes, the answer could come from within as well. Both Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez average about 94.5 mph on their fastball and will have their innings monitored. The Astros plan to find a way to keep a way to keep McCullers available for a potential playoff push, Drellich writes, and Velasquez could also fit into the bullpen picture as well.
The first name that comes to mind when discussing hard-throwing trade candidates among relievers would be Aroldis Chapman, though the tone of Luhnow’s comments doesn’t seem to indicate that the team is gunning for a reliever of that caliber. Additional relief arms that are among the league-leaders in velocity (via Fangraphs’ leaderboards) and happen to be on non-contending clubs include Jake Diekman and Ken Giles of the Phillies, Bryan Morris and Sam Dyson of the Marlins, and Jeremy Jeffress of the Brewers.