LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' pursuit for relief pitching could heat up in the next few days, with general manager Jeff Luhnow saying Monday he's optimistic the club will be able to make a move during the Winter Meetings or shortly after.Adding one or possibly two quality arms
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros' pursuit for relief pitching could heat up in the next few days, with general manager Jeff Luhnow saying Monday he's optimistic the club will be able to make a move during the Winter Meetings or shortly after.
Adding one or possibly two quality arms to the bullpen remains the top focus for Luhnow, who arrived at the at the Winter Meetings on Monday with several of his top front office executives. Luhnow told reporters the Astros have had four to five meetings with agents of players they're interested in and several conversations with other clubs regarding trades.
"At this point, it's a lot of feeling each other out and trying to see where the market is going on some of the players we're interested in," Luhnow said. "I think it will be a productive three days. Even if we don't get a deal done while we're here, we're certainly going to put ourselves in a spot where we'll have an opportunity to potentially after.
"I'm optimistic we're going to do something to improve the club while we're here or shortly thereafter."
The Astros, who offered lefty reliever Mike Minor a contract before he signed with the Rangers, are looking to bolster a bullpen that manager A.J. Hinch patched together in the playoffs with starting pitchers. Ken Giles will return as closer, and Will Harris is back and has a solid track record. All-Star Chris Devenski will play a key role next year, but there's a lack of quality proven arms.
Two free agents to keep an eye on are right-hander Joe Smith and lefty Tony Watson. Smith, 33, had a 3.33 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Blue Jays and Indians last season. The 32-year-old Watson, who pitched against the Astros in the World Series, had a 3.38 ERA in 71 games between the Pirates and Dodgers.
"There's a number of pitchers available through free agency and we're going to keep monitoring the market," Luhnow said. "I didn't think this year we'd be jumping out ahead of everybody and grabbing one of the first guys off the board. We're pretty much in on just about everybody that gets signed at one level or another. Sometimes there's another club that need him a little more."
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A report in The Athletic on Monday said the Astros were interested in free-agent starters Yu Darvish and Jacob Arrieta, but they will command larger contracts than the Astros are willing to spend. Houston's rotation is deep, led by Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and World Series hero Charlie Morton, with Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock also in the mix.
If the Astros were to sign a starter, that would allow them to move a pitcher -- likely Peacock -- to the bullpen and offset their need for another reliever in free agency or trade.
"I think the reality is if we're going to improve our rotation, it's going to have to be somebody that's better than what we have, and we've got a pretty good rotation penciled out for next year," Luhnow said. "We're not going to be looking at fourth or fifth starters; we're probably looking at something north of that. There's not a big population but we'll probably touch base with maybe not all of them, but some of them."
The Athletic also mentioned Tampa Bay's Chris Archer as a possible trade target, but the Astros aren't likely to unload the type of prospects that would be needed to make such a deal.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.