Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 2/28/12
Usually it's a contending team, lacking other options, that considers transforming a starter to a closer. Other times, a team will overspend on the free-agent market for a reliable closer, hoping he's the difference between staying home and making the playoffs. The idea is that, in a division race, every lead is precious. Stability at the back of the bullpen is huge for a team on the cusp. Bad teams worry about their closer lastly. Except, that is, for the Houston Astros, who this week announced that veteran starter Brett Myers is now the club's closer. Citing an abundance of starters and a lack of reliable relievers on the roster, the Astros decided they need Myers to move to the bullpen. Why is a team that could very well lose 100 games or more worried about a closer? More important, why are the Astros taking a guy who has chewed up well over 200 innings in each of the past two seasons and hiding him in the bullpen? How many significant leads do the Astros expect to have? Oh, and there's the fact that Myers is due about 11 million this year. Aren't those dollars better spent on a guy that can give you six or seven innings per outing? Legitimate questions all. But the men who made the decision general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Brad Mills, did the right thing. Luhnow pointed out that when one takes the drop-off from Myers' starts to whoever replaces him in the rotation and compares that to the upgrade at closer, the decision makes sense. Good point. But there's more to it than that. This season is essentially a 162-game tryout camp for the club's young players, including pitchers. So while Myers' old spot in the rotation might initially go to a veteran like Livan Hernandez or Zach Duke, eventually a prospect could occupy that role this season. And, even in a rebuilding situation, there's something to be said for not blowing late-inning leads. The Astros had a 20-28 record in games decided by one run last season. So late-inning stability can only help. The move also could prove to be a win-win for Myers and the club beyond end-of-game results. Myers is entering the final year of his contract, and a successful season as a closer would only raise his value as a free agent, and perhaps, prolong his career. (It should be noted that Myers has a club option for 2013, which now could vest based on his performance as a reliever.) From the Astros' point of view, if Myers is a reliable closer in the first half of the season, he has value on the trade market. He could very well become a coveted piece by the trade deadline. Give Luhnow and Mills aren't exactly thinking outside the box, because Myers has been a closer before, having saved 21 games for the Phillies in 2007. But it was a well-thought-out idea that upgrades one area of the team significantly with little risk. Actually, virtually no risk. After all, what's the downside? It's not as if the Astros' pennant chances could go up in flames because of this decision.
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