The Astros will likely have to open the pocketbook to keep their All-Star closer around past 2022.
Scheduled to enter free agency following the conclusion of the upcoming 2022 season, Ryan Pressly’s services are projected to be in high demand come next winter. Admittedly, I am putting the buggy in front of the horse on this topic with a lockout still in effect. However, I would be remiss not to mention that the Astros will probably have to pay more than $10 million per season — Pressly’s current annual rate — to keep the two-time All-Star in Houston in the long term.
Fresh off a season with a 2.25 ERA/2.06 FIP and 2.4 fWAR in 64 frames, Pressly has arguably never seen his stock higher during his nine-year career. Only Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Zack Britton, Liam Hendriks, and Will Smith are scheduled to earn a higher salary without accounting for average annual salary. Chapman leads the way at $18 million. Based on a quick value identifier using fWAR since 2018, only Hendriks of the group above has produced more value than Pressly.
If there is a comp to consider for Pressly’s next contract, Hendriks’ three-year, $54 million deal with the White Sox before the 2021 season is likely in the ballpark of possibilities. Reminder: While Hendriks’ payroll figure is only $13.333 million, his average annual value — the figure that matters for tax threshold purposes — is $18 million in 2022. In other words, prepare for Pressly to have a hefty price tag. Also, there is the free agency of Kenley Jansen to consider, as he was unsigned when the lockout began. His next contract could also considerably affect Pressly’s next deal, especially if he and the Astros cannot agree on another extension beforehand.
From a roster construction perspective, you can see Click, and his front office has already started to prepare for the worst as it pertains to Pressly’s long-term status. I believe an argument could be made that Phil Maton was partially acquired to address this long-term concern. The signing of Hector Neris before the lockout was also made to not only shore the bullpen in the short term but, like Maton, also if Pressly is wearing a different uniform in 2023.
Both the development and performance of Maton and Neris in 2022 may dictate how comfortable the organization becomes in their offer, or lack thereof, to Pressly in about ten months. The development of certain arms in the minors may also dictate the course of action. In either case, the Astros have time, but if they desire to keep him then they have to open up the pocketbook.