The Astros have made it clear that adding to their relief corps is a priority this winter, with interest in the likes of Robert Stephenson as well as Jordan Hicks before the latter signed with the Giants last week. One avenue the club doesn’t appear to be exploring, at least for the moment, is a reunion with right-hander Phil Maton. According to Chandler Rome of The Athletic, the Astros haven’t showed much interest in Maton since the righty departed for free agency back in November, though Rome notes that “shouldn’t entirely dismiss” the possibility of a reunion later in the offseason.
Maton, 31 in March, enjoyed something of a breakout season in Houston during the 2023 campaign with a 3.00 ERA and 3.74 FIP in 66 innings of work. Maton struck out a solid 27% of batters faced while walking 9.1% and generating grounders at a 42.9% clip. Solid as that season was, however, Maton lacks the long-term track record in high-leverage situations of other relief arms on the market. Dating back to the 2020 season, Maton has pitched to a 3.93 ERA (106 ERA+) and 3.69 FIP in 223 appearances, painting him as more of a quality middle relief option than a player who can be relied upon in the late innings.
Despite the relatively short track record of late inning success, the revelation that the Astros may not be interested in retaining Maton is something of a surprise. After all, a report last month indicated the sides had been in contact, and Houston’s publicly-acknowledged payroll limitations could price them out of the market for players like Stephenson, who MLBTR predicted would land a four-year $36MM deal this winter or even fellow righty Hector Neris, who dominated to a 1.71 ERA in 71 appearances with the Astros last season and has recently seen his market begin to pick up.
With Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu forming a solid duo at the back of Houston’s bullpen, re-signing Maton to cover the middle innings would be a way to help bolster the club’s depth without breaking the bank. If the Astros do prove to be uninterested in bringing back Maton, the likes of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, and Matt Moore could be other relatively cost-effective options at the club’s disposal.
More from around MLB’s West divisions…
- As the Padres look to rebuild their lineup after shipping Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the Bronx last month, they’ve investigated a variety of options to complement right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. on the outfield grass next year. One such option, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, was center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Lin adds that while San Diego was interested in the veteran center fielder’s services prior to him signing with the Blue Jays on a one-year deal, it’s unlikely the club would have been willing to match the $10.5MM guarantee Toronto offered Kiermaier to remain up north. That reluctance on the part of San Diego could be a bad sign for the club’s reported interest in Michael A. Taylor as the 32-year-old sports a similar profile to both Kiermaier and fellow center fielder Harrison Bader, who signed an identical contract to Kiermaier with the Mets shortly after the new year. Should Taylor prove to be out of the club’s price range, the team could look to the trade market in its search for a center fielder or explore lower-tier options like Adam Duvall or Aaron Hicks.
- The Dodgers have built a reputation for getting the most out of their pitchers under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, ranging from their previous work with Alex Wood in the mid-2010s to their recent success in turning Evan Phillips into a quality closer since he joined the organization in 2021. As discussed by Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the club’s strong pitching infrastructure has been key to luring free agent pitchers such as Tyler Anderson and Noah Syndergaard to the club in recent years. While the system faltered somewhat in 2023 as the team posted middle-of-the-pack numbers from the mound, DiGiovanna suggests that the club’s infrastructure played a role in luring high-octane arms like those of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, and Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers this winter. Now that the club has spent more than $1 billion to lock that star-studded trio up long term, they’ll surely look to optimize the performance of those front-of-the-rotation pieces much as they did reclamation projects in previous seasons.