Arms market heats up as Winter Meetings begin

added 12/6/2015 by Greg Thurston

With the Winter Meetings now officially underway, Astros G.M. Jeff Luhnow will undoubtedly intensify his search for late inning relief help. The market took a turn into the high rent district Sunday morning as both Ryan Madson and Darren O'Day signed lucrative multi-year deals.

Madson, a former closer, enjoyed a sensational 2015 campaign in Kansas City. Bouncing back from a 3-year absence after Tommy John surgery, the lefty posted a 0.96 WHIP and a 2.13 ERA in 63-1/3 innings. The Oakland Athletics thought enough of the 35-year old to sign him to a 3-year deal worth $22 million. O'Day will be staying in Baltimore. The Orioles have inked the side-winding right-hander to a 4-year contract totalling $31 million.

These two signings, along with Oliver Perez's 2-year, $7 million deal with Washington, give us a pretty good idea of the current market value of relief pitching. It's going to be expensive.

Last winter Jim Crane proved he is willing to open up his wallet to improve the team through free agency. The additions of Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, and Colby Rasmus paid off big. I expect the Astros to continue to be aggressive this winter, focusing primarily on relief pitching.

One of Houston's best options could be a man who spent the last two seasons in an Astros' uniform. Tony Sipp would love to stay -- and the Astros desperately need lefty relievers. Sipp would seem to be in line for a multi-year deal well in excess of what Perez received. Brian Matusz, Antonio Bastardo, Manny Parra, and Neal Cotts could also be on Luhnow's radar.

When discussing the subject of relief pitching, the recurring theme seems to be: "the Astros need hard throwers". A commodity that isn't that readily available on the Free Agent market, Luhnow could choose to address that need through a trade. Aroldis Chapman, the hardest thrower in the game, has been linked to the Astros in trade rumors. But Cincinnati's asking price may be too high. The Red Sox reportedly turned away from Chapman, who will be a Free Agent after the 2016 season, opting instead to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Padres. Other relievers rumored to be on the trading block include Andrew Miller and Drew Storen. Both are experienced closers but neither can light up the radar gun like Chapman.

The Free Agent market on the right-handed side of the ledger includes names like Joakim Soria, Shawn Kelley, Dale Thayer, and Bobby Parnell. Soria, 31, is the cream of the crop and would also command a high salary. With money freed up by the release of Chris Carter and Chad Qualls, Soria should be affordable and could be in Luhnow's crosshairs. Don't be surprised if Jeff pulls the trigger quickly. New General Managers in Anaheim, Oakland, and Seattle have already proven to be serious about making a run at the A.L. West division crown in 2016.