After the Houston Astros lost Kendall Graveman to the Chicago White Sox in free agency this past week, the front office responded quickly. The Astros are reportedly signing reliever Hector Neris to a two-year deal, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has also confirmed the signing, while adding that there is $17 million guaranteed in the deal. With Graveman signing a three-year deal worth $24 million, an assumption can be made that the Astros were willing to spend but were not looking to go more than two years on a contract.
The Philadelphia Phillies were in on their free agent reliever but decided to explore elsewhere with Neris’ market being “hot.” The right-hander left the City of Brotherly Love leading the organization in strikeouts by a reliever (520).
The Astros add reliever Hector Neris, after losing Kendall Graveman in free agency.
Neris is a high-strikeout rate closer that will help fill the production lost in Graveman. The right-hander posted an 11.9 strikeout per nine innings in 2021, which was the second highest of his career for a regular season.
The 32-year-old matches up nicely with peripherals when comparing him to Graveman:
Neris rolls with a four-pitcher arsenal, heavily invested in a split finger and a four-seam fastball that rank above average in velocity. The righty adds to the strikeout pitchers in the back of the bullpen with closer Ryan Pressly and setup man Ryne Stanek.
Yimi Garcia and Brooks Raley are still free agents, and this signing could also help replace what could be lost in Garcia and Raley. Garcia relied on more fastball spin that produced higher velocities, and while Neris isn’t in the exact same category in that regard, he is still above average in both.
For Raley, it is a different case, while he is a left-hander. But, Raley was know for his soft contact, and that is something that Neris relies on as well. Raley was the best with average exit velocity for the ’21 season, while Neris wasn’t far behind in the 88th percentile.
Neris’s signing adds a combination of both of these two pitchers, while also bringing more strikeouts to the backend of the bullpen. With the Astros’ 40-man roster currently at 39, the last spot would likely be for Justin Verlander, whose signing hasn’t become official. There would possibly be another trade or DFA in the coming days to make Neris’ signing official as well.