LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros addressed their biggest -- and perhaps only -- major need at the Winter Meetings when they signed free-agent right-hander Joe Smith to a two-year, $15 million deal on Thursday, adding a quality arm to their bullpen.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow opened the Meetings targeting several relievers, hoping to sign one, before landing Smith. The Astros missed out on Luke Gregerson and are hoping Smith can play a bigger role while joining closer Ken Giles and former All-Stars Chris Devenski and Will Harris in the back end of the 'pen.
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In addition to Smith, the Astros signed former Cubs closer, and bounceback candidate, Hector Rondon to a two-year deal on Friday, a day after the Winter Meetings ended. Offensively, they could bring in a player to throw into the left-field mix, but it doesn't appear to be a priority. Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp and perhaps even Colin Moran will all get time in left field.
Expect Evan Gattis to get more at-bats next year at designated hitter, which means the Astros might carry three catchers. Max Stassi is out of options and could make the club as the third catcher behind Brian McCann and Gattis.
There are still some quality left-handed relief pitchers on the market, and the Astros could use more lefty pitching depth, unless Rule 5 pickupAnthony Gose's transformation to reliever pays quick dividends. Still, expect the Astros to keep a close eye on the free-agent market as the winter unfolds to see if they can find a lefty.
Veteran Tony Sipp is in the last year of his three-year deal and has made some adjustments, so he'll be back with a shot to see if he can return to his 2015 form. The rotation is solid. Imagine having Justin Verlander for an entire season and a healthy Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Playoff hero Charlie Morton is back, with Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock in the mix. That's quality depth from top to bottom.
Luhnow has said the Astros could add another starter, which would allow them to move someone -- likely Peacock -- to the bullpen, so that's something else to keep an eye on.
The Astros selected Gose, a former big league outfielder who's now pitching, from the Triple-A roster of the Rangers. In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, they selected left-handed pitcher Chris Nunn from the Cubs. Minor League right-hander Elieser Hernandez was taken by the Marlins in the Major League Rule 5 Draft.
GM's bottom line
"We could sequence a trade or signing with another trade potentially and free up even more at-bats, but at this point I like the position we're in because we're going to be opportunistic. If there's a situation that presents itself, a player that makes us better on offense and we can make adjustments, we'll look at that for sure." -- Luhnow.