For the second straight season, the Houston Astros have prioritized bolstering their bullpen. Last year, the club signed Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. This winter, the team has already completed a trade for the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen ace in Ken Giles. Today, the Astros secured a piece of their playoff club long-term, bringing back Tony Sipp, as first reported by Evan Drellich. Ken Rosenthal filled in the details as Sipp’s deal is for three years and $18 million for the lefty.
Sipp spent the first five years of his career as a roughly replacement-level reliever for the Indians and Diamondbacks before catching on with Houston during the 2014 season. Since coming to the Astros, he has pitched very well, striking out roughly 30% of batters and sporting an identical 2.93 FIP in each of the last two seasons. Sipp had a ridiculous 88 left-on-base percentage last season that drove his ERA under two, and while that feat is unlikely to be matched next season, Sipp is still a good bet to keep producing.
Over the last two seasons, the 32-year-old Sipp is one of just 15 relievers with a FIP under three in both 2014 and 2015: Wade Davis, David Robertson, Drew Storen, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Fields, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Kenley Jansen, Hector Rondon, Trevor Rosenthal, Cody Allen, and Aroldis Chapman. The Astros were already bringing back Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, and Josh Fields to a bullpen that posted a solid 3.27 ERA and 3.38 FIP as well as a 5.3 WAR that ranked second in Major League Baseball behind only the Baltimore Orioles.
The bullpen figured to be as good or better in 2016 with the trade of Ken Giles, and Sipp further solidifies the group attempting to shorten game in Houston. Although a lefty, the Astros have had no problems giving Sipp appearances against righties as well. Sipp does not ahve pronounced platoon splits over his career and over the last two seasons, struck out righties nearly 38% of the time. The only left-handed relievers who struck out a higher percentage of righties over the past two seasons (minimum 20 IP) are Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
A three-year deal is risky for any reliever given year-to-year volatility and Sipp is no different, but in this year’s market, Sipp’s contract is in line with other relievers. After Darren O’Day received four years and $31 million from the Baltimore Orioles and Joakim Soria received three years and $25 million from Kansas City Royals, an $18 million guarantee to Sipp is reasonable given the quality of work Sipp has produced for the Astros over the last two seasons.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.