Full Trade –
To HOU: Will Smith
To ATL: Jake Odorizzi
ASTROS GRADE: C
The Astros’ bullpen has limited left-handed hitters to a batting average just a smidge over .200 this year, so it’s not as though they needed a left-handed reliever, but the front office took a chance on Will Smith regardless. James Click implied that the trade was made not because the Astros needed him but because manager Dusty Baker would prefer to have at least one lefty in the bullpen anyway.
Smith is tough to evaluate. He has had some dominant years and has an established track record as a reliever, but is in the midst of a tumultuous season in which he has a 4.38 ERA, 5.22 FIP, and 5.1 BB/9 through 37 innings. This comes less than a year after he repeatedly shut the Astros down in the 2021 World Series. However, his quality of contact numbers aren’t any worse than expected for him, so at least the walks are the only significant problem. Smith also has a career 1.47 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in 20 postseason appearances, which means that he pitches almost flawlessly under pressure, regardless of how good or bad his regular season goes. At his best, he’s a high-quality weapon, but it’s also easy to see why this is giving many fans pause given his control issues.
To get Smith, the team gave up Jake Odorizzi, who ended up being the odd man out in the rotation after all. A trade involving a rental starter and a reliever with a buyout option after this year between two contenders is rarely seen, and while Odorizzi will provide more value to his team than Smith by default because he’s a starter, someone from the rotation had to go eventually. Lance McCullers Jr. completed another strong rehab start on Tuesday and is closer to a return, which means that a trade was necessary or else Houston would have had 7 starters on their roster.
Another thing that makes this trade look good for Houston is the fact that they acquired a first baseman, a catcher, and a left-handed reliever without giving up any young pitchers on their major league roster. They’re still very much in “wait-and-see” mode on Smith, but he still has the potential to be a quality piece in the bullpen, and they managed to get him by subtracting from an area of surplus (more on the Smith trade here).