Astros, reliever Joe Smith agree to two-year contract
The Astros have bolstered the bullpen by bringing back Joe Smith.
The Astros announced on Monday that they have agreed to a new two-year contract with reliever Joe Smith. It’s reported that the contract will guarantee him a total of $8 million, which represents some possible savings for the club, as he took home a total of $15 million in his previous two-year deal.
Smith, 35, has long been a reliable right-handed arm, owning a career 2.98 ERA. He rebounded from a rough start to post a 3.74 ERA in 2018 with the Astros, but missed the first half of 2019 with a torn Achilles. He came back to post a sterling 1.80 ERA in 28 appearances down the stretch and emerged as a trusted setup man for AJ Hinch in the wake of Ryan Pressly‘s injury and subsequent struggles.
The Houston bullpen has lost a great deal of quality depth, with Smith, Will Harris, Collin McHugh and Hector Rondon all hitting free agency. The Astros needed at least one or two reliable guys to fill that void, and bringing Smith back at just $4 million per season is a solid move.
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As things currently stand, Roberto Osuna is still the closer, with Smith joining Pressly as late-inning setup options. Beyond that, however, remains plenty of uncertainty. Brad Peacock could factor into that mix if he’s not used in the starting rotation.
Josh James, Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini represent veteran options, but they all have their warts and concerns. Right-hander Bryan Abreu and lefties Blake Taylor, Framber Valdez and Cionel Perez would be in the mix as well but have yet to establish themselves in the major leagues.
Harris is still a free agent, so there’s always a chance he returns, at least until he signs elsewhere. There’s still a couple of months before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, so the Astros may well make another move or two to bolster the depth of the relief corps.
But for now, retaining Smith is a good start. Despite being 35 this past season, he lowered his walk and home run rates from the prior year and nearly matched his rate of allowing hits. He should continue to be effective for the life of this deal, barring injury, so his presence in the bullpen will be a welcome and worthwhile addition.