Astros Still Need Left-Handed Pitching

Given the Astros need for help at the other side of the bullpen, here are the top 3 free agent left-handed relievers the Astros should pursue

The Astros have had a busy off-season. They've filled in holes at DH and catcher, they've added some outfielders, and provided depth to the rotation. However, they have still not acquired a major need for Houston at the moment; a left-handed reliever.

Though the Astros did sign a lefty with limited minor league experience in Ashur Tolliver, it's somewhat surprising Luhnow has not been more aggressive in coveting a position he listed as a need for the Astros earlier in the off-season. 

https://twitter.com/MarkBermanFox26/status/782985776623591425

Luhnow is not wrong. The only lefties currently in the Astros bullpen are Tony Sipp and Ashur Tolliver, the former of which had nearly a 5 ERA in 2016, while the latter has less than 5 innings of major league baseball under his belt. Not exactly a group that inspires a lot of confidence.

It's not out of the realm of possibilities that Sipp bounces back next season, but the Astros could certainly use an upgrade at the left-side of the pen. Having an elite bullpen is extremely important in October, and if the Astros want to keep up with other contenders they may want to move on some lefty pitchers, quick. Here are some possible free-agent candidates that can fill that void:

3) Travis Wood

http://www.scout.com/player/155364-travis-wood?s=278

Travis Wood is apparently currently "being pitched as a rotation option by his agent, but he would probably accept a relief role if the price is right and the destination is attractive." The Astros could potentially be that "attractive destination," as in Houston he would be playing on a team with championship expectations.

Wood has been used as a long-reliever and starter in the past, but may be best suited for a lefty specialist role. Right-handed batters feasted on Wood in 2016 (.263/.344/.521, .362 wOBA(!)) compared to lefties (.128/.208/.239, .203 wOBA). 

While Wood is one of the more popular names on the market, with many teams reportedly interested in the lefty coming off a season with the championship-winning Cubs in which he hit a home-run in the playoffs (yes, hit), his advanced stats on the year weren't overly impressive. Wood had a 4.54 FIP, a 4.83 xFIP, and a 4.46 SIERA, which suggests his 2016 ERA should have been much higher than his 2.95 ERA, most likely due to elite fielding and luck causing him to have an extremely low .215 average on batted balls in play. He also had a K/9 of just 6.93, which is not very high for a reliever and much lower than 10.55 K/9 he amassed in 2015.

Wood's numbers would certainly be far better if he were used in a LOOGY role, and if he were commit to that he would be a good option for the Astros. His popularity may over-inflate his actual value, but if available the Astros should consider. 

2) Jerry Blevins

http://www.scout.com/player/58056-jerry-blevins?s=278

Blevins, a veteran lefty pitcher who players for the Mets last season, looked good in 2016 after missing most of 2015 after slipping on a curb and injuring his throwing arm (why is it that only baseball players seem to injure themselves in freak home accidents?). 

In 42 innings of work, Blevins compiled 2.79 ERA, striking out 52 batters and walking 15. He did this primarily against lefties, as he pitched 26 innings against lefties compared to 16 innings against righties. 

Blevins has a pretty extreme platoon split (.260 wOBA against lefties compared to a .312 wOBA against righties), and would likely be best suited for a LOOGY role, similar to what Sipp has provided for the Astros in the past.

Reports show that Blevins is asking for a 3-year deal, worth $5.5 to $6 million a year. Blevins is a pricey option, but one of the best on the market. 

1) Boone Logan

http://www.scout.com/player/84759-boone-logan?s=278

Logan, another veteran lefty, had a 3.69 ERA for the Rockies last season, not at all unimpressive when you consider the effects of having to pitch in Coors Park half the time. 

The Mets, Yankees, and Blue Jays have all been linked to Logan, so if the Astros are interested they may want to get in the mix sooner rather than later. 

Logan may also be best suited for a LOOGY role, as right-handed batters (.211/.338/.421, .305 wOBA) faired much better against Logan than left-handed hitters (.142/.222/.255, .305 wOBA) in 2016.

Being 33 and having inflated stats due to playing in Colorado, Logan may be one of the cheaper options on this list.


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