The have been very few problems with the Astros this season. One way to know that is true is to look at the record of the Astros, which is good. But if I did have to pick a weakness for the team, which I do not as I am not currently employed by them, it would be the lack of a truly good left-handed reliever.
Finding a good left-handed reliever is not very easy for a variety of reasons, chief among which are the fact that it is very difficult to throw a baseball and most of the world’s population does so with their right arm. There are not many internal options to be found, unless you count Sean Stutzman who is a 23-year-old lefty that was signed as a senior free agent out of DBU. You should probably not count Sean Stutzman. However, there are a few options out there for Luhnow and Co. to choose from.
Rumored this week as a possible trade target, Watson has eight saves and a 1.62 ERA for the floundering Pirates. He posted sub-2 ERAs in 2014 and 2015, but had a 3.06 ERA last season. Of greater concern, his FIP climbed to 4.37 in 2016 and is all the way up to 4.84 this year. He is posting the lowest K/9 rate of his career, coupled with the highest BB/9 rate of his career. He would command a “closer” price and I’m not sure he would be worth it.
When healthy, Doolittle is one of the better LHPs in the game. Unfortunately, Doolittle’s beard is longer than almost any stretch of good health in his career. Doolittle has the sixth-lowest wOBA allowed by any pitcher to LHH in the last three seasons as a reliever, just one point higher than Zach Britton. As an established weapon, he too would command a hefty price tag.
Unless you are Donnie Hart, you are probably asking yourself, “Who is Donnie Hart?” In 2016, Hart jumped from Double-A to the majors for Baltimore to shore up a hole in their bullpen down the stretch. He was fantastic, posting a 0.49 ERA in 22 games. This season, he has been even better. He has doubled his strikeout rate, lowered his FIP by a run and a half, and was just optioned to Triple-A.
His ERA on the surface is much worse, but it is ballooned by a .442 BABIP that will regress. His groundball rate is well below his career rate and I expect that will improve as well. If Baltimore is low enough on him right now to demote him, maybe Luhnow could slip in and find a diamond in the rough for next to nothing.