The Astros and Mets are among multiple clubs checking in on free agent reliever Mike Minor, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. Olney reports that Minor is expected to sign fairly soon, adding that some evaluators see the veteran as the top left-handed reliever on the market.
Minor joins free agent Wade Davis and Baltimore's Zach Britton, among others, as converted starters who found their groove in relief. Before 2017, the 2009 first-rounder compiled a 4.10 ERA across 110 major league starts with the Braves, spanning 2010-2014. After undergoing season-ending surgery two seasons ago, Minor missed all of 2015 and most of 2016 before transitioning to the bullpen, and the lefty now looks as effective as ever.
Minor, 29, who signed 2-year/$7.25 million deal with the Royals while injured in 2016, spent all of 2017 in Kansas City's big league pen. The six-year veteran made 65 appearances last season, all of them in relief, throwing 77.2 innings with a 2.55 ERA and 10.2 K/9; Minor's 6.6 H/9 and 0.6 HR/9 were both career-bests. However, Although relief pitching contracts have reached historic dollar quantities in recent years, Minor's injury history may scare clubs away from a sizable longterm deal.
In the age of "super relievers", the Astros managed to win this year's World Series despite lackluster bullpen performances across the board. General Manager Jeff Luhnow's interest in left-handed relief depth is well documented; the club was deep into talks with the Orioles to acquire Britton before a potential deal fell through. While Minor's name value isn't quite as high as Britton's, a deal for the lefty would allow the Astros to hold onto their most coveted minor league assets. With former setup-man Luke Gregerson's contract ending last fall, and closer Ken Giles' postseason struggles, the defending champs are certainly looking to bolster their bullpen before spring training.
The Mets employed one of the league's worst bullpens in 2017, ranking 25th in MLB according to relievers' fWAR, and a deadline deal moving Addison Reed to the Red Sox didn't help. The club currently has Jeurys Familia and A.J. Ramos locked into late-inning roles, with Jerry Blevins serving as specialized left-handed arm. Yet Blevins' role wouldn't limit Minor's innings much, if at all: Minor actually faced more than twice as many right-handed bats in 2017 as he did left-handed bats. While Minor's one season in the majors makes for a small sample size of numbers, his early results indicate he could be far more than a LOOGY.