Another back-breaking Astros loss highlights Jim Crane's free agency ineptitude

Houston Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero (47)
Houston Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero (47) / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it happened again. The city may have been different, but the result was the same. The Houston fell in extra innings on Monday night thanks to a walk-off single courtesy of San Francisco Giants' batter Austin Slater.

This painful loss came just one day after the Astros lost in shocking fashion to the Mike Trout-less Los Angeles Angels. The Astros have now lost back-to-back games on walk-offs and are a paltry seven games below .500 on the season. Houston is 7.5 games behind the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners and 5.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot.

Once again, it was the bullpen that collapsed on top of itself after Rafael Montero allowed three runs on four hits in the bottom of the 10th inning. Montero was good for just one out in the inning and was even charged with a fielding error. Brutal.

Re-signing Rafael Montero is just another example of the Astros' free agency ineptitude

Montero was re-signed to a three-year contract following the Astros' World Series championship run in 2022. Perhaps owner Jim Crane wasn't able to separate himself from the joy that comes with winning a World Championship, because some of Houston's greatest blunders in free agency came after hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy in 2022.

Montero's three-year, $34.5 million deal looked like a disaster last season after the reliever went 3-3 with a 5.08 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. This was one year after the right-hander was a key cog in the Astros bullpen and posted a 2.37 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 68.1 innings.

Things aren't any better this season. Monterro can't get a swing-and-miss to save his life in 2024. According to Baseball Savant, the Astros reliever is among the bottom 15% in the league in whiff rate and strikeout rate. In both 2022 and 2023, Montero ranked among 70th percentile or higher in both categories. Re-signing Montero has been an unmitigated disaster.

The Astros signing Jose Abreu was much more egregious than the deal for Rafael Montero

But inking Montero to a long-term contract wasn't the Astros' biggest miss. During that same offseason, the 'Stros signed former AL MVP Jose Abreu to a three-year, $58.5 million contract. Abreu has been nothing but horrible since coming over from the Chicago White Sox.

Things got so bad that the Astros had to send the first baseman back to the minor leagues earlier this spring. Seriously?! Abreu is a former All-Star. That's like having to send a high school honor roll student back to kindergarten because he forgot the alphabet. By the way, since his return, Abreu is hitting just .180, so it's not as if the tune-up really worked.

There are still question marks surrounding Houston's offseason signing of Josh Hader as well. While the Astros closer has been better of late, Sunday's loss falls at his feet. The Astros inked Hader to a record-breaking deal this offseason, and the Houston faithful are beginning to have their doubts when it comes to how ownership approached free agency.

These decisions have a lasting impact, and if it prohibits Houston from re-signing some of the homegrown stars, the Astros fanbase will not be happy. These mistakes have the makings of something problematic going forward.

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