Bullpen arm still atop Astros' Winter wish list

Houston asking about top relievers available via trade

Bullpen arm still atop Astros' Winter wish list

NASHVILLE , Tenn. -- The Astros remained zeroed in on pitching at the Winter Meetings, though no deal appeared to be imminent on Tuesday. The club has made contact with just about every attractive free-agent reliever on the market this offseason and continues to meet with clubs about trade opportunities.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow doesn't give specifics when he meets with reporters daily from his suite in the Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Luhnow has said he hoped to leave the Winter Meetings having made a deal, which could still happen. The Meetings wrap up Thursday.

"It's hard to say it's productive when there's no outcome you can point to," he said. "A lot of conversations, ongoing dialogue and [we are] still pursuing multiple avenues."

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Relief pitching remains top priority for Houston, which wants to add another arm to the back of the bullpen. The club has been linked to Aroldis Chapman, the premier closer in the market, but could strike a deal for an arm like Ken Giles of the Phillies or Drew Storen of the Nationals. Manager A.J. Hinch expressed confidence Tuesday in closer Luke Gregerson, who did a solid job in that role last season.

The Astros also have been linked to proven closers in Andrew Miller (Yankees) and Mark Melancon (Pirates).

"Where everything else fits in is going to be in the supply and demand," Hinch said. "We've been linked to a lot of things at the back end. Luke Gregerson did a really good job as a closer and pitched some significant innings when it mattered and did a very, very good job. So it depends on the way things are constructed as to what the roles can be."

Hinch at the Winter Meetings

Another factor the Astros have to consider is left-handed bullpen options. Oliver Perez has signed with the Nationals, Joe Thatcher likely won't be back, and Tony Sipp is one of the top free-agent lefties on the market.

"Having all three of those guys hit free agency has put a void on the left-handed side," Hinch said. "Kevin Chapman is still on the roster. We've got Brett Oberholtzer still on the roster, but [he is] more of a starter. So we don't have the answer left-handed."

The Astros carried two lefties -- Sipp and Thatcher -- to start the season, and added Perez in August to give them another option to match up against the slew of talented lefty hitters in the division.

"I was fortunate to have so many different guys that could handle the off-handedness of the opposing lineup," Hinch said. "Our lefties could generally handle righties. My righties could generally handle lefties. [Pat] Neshek was more of a right-handed specialist. So that type of flexibility on the 'pen that we built last year allowed me to mix and match, keep fresh, keep guys healthy."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.