Astros relief ace Will Harris is heading to the defending World Series champs.
It was reported early Thursday that Will Harris was close to signing, and that indeed proved true. News broke on Thursday evening that Harris has agreed to a three-year deal with the Washington Nationals, leaving the Astros without their longtime relief ace.
Harris is reportedly guaranteed $24 million over the three-year term, which is a strong payday for the 35-year-old. By contrast, he made roughly $10.2 million combined over the last five seasons in Houston.
The club snagged him on a waiver claim from the Diamondbacks in November 2014 and he immediately blossomed into one of the game’s best late inning relief pitchers. He worked to a 1.90 ERA that first season and spent some time as the closer in 2016.
All told, Harris gave the Astros 309 appearances and logged a combined 2.36 ERA over 297 innings, notching 20 saves and posting an 18-13 record. He’s coming off arguably his best season, working to a 1.50 ERA in a career-high-tying 68 appearances in 2019.
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There’s a bit of irony here too in that his last appearance, he gave up a key home run to the Nationals’ Howie Kendrick in Game Seven of the World Series. It wasn’t a bad pitch on Harris’ part, so it’s unfair to lay the blame for the loss on him, but it’s nonetheless interesting that he’s headed to the other team now.
Astros Were Out
The fact that Harris is getting $8 million a year on a three-year deal at his age makes it unsurprising the Astros let him walk. Much has been written about their lack of payroll space, and it doesn’t seem characteristic of GM Jeff Luhnow to give that much money to a 35-year-old reliever, regardless of how good Harris has been.
While the club will certainly miss having their premier fireman in the bullpen, it’s not as though they will be without options. Closer Roberto Osuna and setup man Ryan Pressly are still on the roster, and the club re-signed Joe Smith earlier this offseason. They’ll pay Smith half of what Harris is getting, and they’re doing it on only a two-year deal.
There are some other intriguing arms to fill out the relief corps, and there’s room for a low-cost addition or two. Nonetheless, losing a player as good as Harris always hurts, and this is no exception. The Astros picked him up off waivers and got five excellent years from him, making that one of the best moves of Luhnow’s tenure.