The Astros have claimed right-hander Jake Cousins off waivers from the Brewers, reports Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. There had been no prior indication Cousins had been removed from Milwaukee’s 40-man roster, so this will drop their count to 39. The Astros have now announced the claim, with left-hander Blake Taylor designated for assignment in a corresponding move and Cousins optioned to Triple-A.
Cousins, 29, was first added to Milwaukee’s roster in June of 2021. He made 30 appearances for them the rest of the way, allowing 2.70 earned runs per nine innings. He struck out 35.2% of batters faced and kept 47.4% of balls in play on the ground, but also issued walks at a 15.2% clip. In 2022, he missed most of the year with a right elbow effusion, or a build up of fluid in the area. He was only able to make 12 appearances with the big league club.
Here in 2023, Cousins was frequently optioned to Triple-A and recalled for the first few months of the season. He made nine appearances with the big league club, posting a 4.82 ERA. He’s also made 13 Triple-A appearances with a 7.30 ERA, though a .533 batting average in balls in play and 58.3% strand rate are clearly inflating that number in the small sample.
The Brewers evidently tried to quietly sneak Cousins through waivers to open a roster spot, though the Astros swooped in to stop that from happening. He’s struck out 31.4% of major league hitters he’s faced in his career but has also walked 16.2% of them. They will surely try to help him better harness his stuff as he provides them with some bullpen depth. He has a pair of option years remaining, one of which he’s burning here in 2023, but can be sent to the minors for one more season in the future.
In order to take a shot on Cousins, the Astros are risking losing Taylor, who originally came to Houston in the 2019 trade that sent Jake Marisnick to the Mets. Taylor spent most of 2020 to 2022 with the big league club in Houston, making 92 appearances with a 3.06 ERA, 19.1% strikeout rate, 12.6% walk rate and 44.3% ground ball rate. Here in 2023, he began the season on the injured list due to a left elbow strain. He was activated in mid-April and immediately optioned to Triple-A. He’s made 35 appearances at that level with a 5.15 ERA. His 43.7% ground ball rate there has been solid but his 14.9% strikeout rate and 13.1% walk rate are both well worse than average.
The Astros will now have a week to trade Taylor or pass him through waivers, though the timeline on the trade option is much tighter with tomorrow’s deadline. Left-handed relief tends to always be in demand and Taylor still has an option year beyond this one, though time will tell if his poor results this year dampen the interest from rival clubs.