On Tuesday, the Houston Astros made the Hector Neris’ signing official at a remote press conference. The right-hander will wear No. 50, last worn by Charlie Morton in 2018, but even on Neris’ day, general manager James Click offered a few other pitching updates.
Click, of course, did not offer any update on free agency talks with Carlos Correa, while the chances of him signing before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires look slimmer each hour. Click pointed out that Tuesday was about Neris, but he still found room to update the media on other pitching news.
Lance McCullers Jr. is progressing well after sustaining a forearm injury during the American League Division Series, while the Astros look to lean on contributions from relievers Pedro Baez and Rafael Montero in 2022.
After battling injuries in 2021, Pedro Baez and Rafael Montero are expected to contribute to the Astros’ bullpen.
The Astros lost Kendall Graveman and Brooks Raley to ball clubs that interested the free agents the most this past week, but that also can be said about Neris. The former Philadelphia Phillie was all smiles in his Tuesday press conference.
Neris will likely help replace the production lost in Graveman, Raley and even Yimi Garcia, depending on when and where the right-hander is used the most next season. And with returning high-leverage arms, the Astros are still banking on two relievers that fell to injury in 2021.
Baez’s season was off to a rough start when the right-hander tested positive for COVID-19 during spring training. The 33-years-old hit the 60-day injured list with a shoulder injury a few weeks after, while his progression back to the majors were nipped with velocity woes as well.
The right-hander only appeared in four outings for the Astros in 2021. And while Baez is still under contract for the ’22 season with a team option for 2023, fans speculated he could be a trade option. But from Click’s comments, the Astros will rely on a rested Baez in the bullpen next season.
Montero is a different case, while he looked to be throw-in from the Graveman trade before contributing out of the Astros’ bullpen until his shoulder injury. The right-hander was designated for assignment by Seattle but didn’t allow an earned run in six innings with the Astros.
Montero was rehabbing in between postseason rounds in October, as the possibility of him contributing was never out of the picture. The 31-year-old is expected to make $3 million in arbitration this winter, while he would likely be tendered a contract by the Nov. 30 deadline.
Montero and Baez are two relievers looking for a bounce back in ’22. While adding Neris, “a key piece,” to the bullpen, the Astros’ relief core could be be as productive as they were late into last season.
The Astros tendered contracts to all six of their arbitration eligible players, while outrighting Andre Scrubb to Triple-A to open a roster spot for Justin Verlander’s signing. Montero was included in this, fortifying the Astros’ trust in him.