Reliever Stanek signs 1-year deal with Astros

January 8th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Looking for a chance to pitch meaningful innings on a team likely to contend in the American League in 2021, veteran reliever signed a one-year deal to join the Astros bullpen on Thursday. The deal is worth $1.1 million, a source told

“Obviously, the team is really good and looking for a chance to play for a championship,” Stanek told “That’s the whole plan. I really like how they run things. Their analytics department, their player development and everybody is really good. And obviously they’ve shown a really good track record of helping guys get better, and that’s the whole plan -- to come out here and play better and win.”

Stanek, 29, made his mark on being used as the “opener” by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018-19, making 56 starts, none of which lasted more than two innings. He spent last season with the Marlins and allowed eight runs in 10 innings for Miami after battling COVID-19 last summer.

“Last year, I feel like I can almost write it off as an anomaly,” he said. “It was crazy from start to finish. I felt pretty good with how I finished the season. I was throwing the ball really well. I didn’t really have a big sample size, so I think just coming in with a full season and getting back to some normalcy will definitely be a plus.”

Stanek will help fill a spot in a Houston bullpen that saw veterans Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock depart via free agency. With a career fastball average of 97.7 mph, Stanek will compete for a spot at the back end of the Astros' bullpen, which currently features and , who sat out last season. Lefties and and right-hander figure to have jobs locked down in 2021, as well.

“First and foremost, the stuff that he has, he can get big outs in big situations and he was looking for an opportunity to win a leverage role in a bullpen,” said Astros GM James Click, who was hired from the Rays a year ago. “That’s something that we can certainly use and I think a lot of teams can use. Especially in our situation, we’re hoping to have a lot of big outs to get in 2021, and he’s one of the guys we identified as someone that can do that for us.”

Osuna began last season as Houston’s closer but appeared in only four games after suffering an elbow injury early in the season. Pressly, an All-Star setup man, slid to the closer’s role, but he is better suited in a setup position. Smith was terrific in 2019 (1.80 ERA), but he chose to sit out last year for family reasons. Stanek plans to be in the mix for a leverage role.

“That’s obviously what I’m looking for,” he said. “I think one of my strengths, obviously, is something that I’ve been able to do a bunch of different things. I’ve pitched in a lot of different situations and had success doing that, so I think the ability to be flexible for me and do whatever they see for me is a plus.”

Both the Astros and Stanek aren’t putting much stock in his 2020 numbers, which came during a pandemic-shortened season. In his last full season in '19, which he split between the Rays and Marlins, Stanek struck out 89 batters in 77 innings with a 3.97 ERA. He posted a 1.09 WHIP and 2.98 ERA in 66 1/3 innings for the Rays in ’18.

“Last year, of all years -- it’s very, very difficult to draw a lot of conclusions about how that performance should be used when factoring in what a guy is going to do going forward,” Click said. “First and foremost, we know who Ryne is as a competitor and we know who he is as a pitcher and the stuff that he has. Him being fully healthy, I think he will return to form with no problem.”

The Astros’ search for bullpen help isn’t done. Sources say the club has been targeting some of the biggest free-agent relievers on the market, including , , and .

“We’re still actively pursuing several other options and certainly don’t anticipate this being the last move of the offseason,” Click said. “We’re obviously excited about the guys that stepped up for us in 2020, but we’re going to have a lot of big outs to get in 2021 and beyond that. We’re probably going to be tested depth-wise as a lot of guys will go from having thrown very few innings in 2020 to throwing a lot of innings in 2021. We are going to need a deep, talented roster to cover all those extra innings.”