Did Astros sign wrong free agent pitcher after seeing Jordan Montgomery contract?

Maybe the Astros made a mistake earlier this offseason.
Texas Rangers pitcher Jordan Montgomery (52) throws
Texas Rangers pitcher Jordan Montgomery (52) throws / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros have been searching all offseason for ways to upgrade the team's starting rotation. GM Dana Brown fell short once again after losing Jordan Montgomery to the defending National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks.

To what extent the 'Stros were involved in negotiations Monty, we don't know. But Houston has been looking to add to their stable of pitchers throughout the winter and into spring.

After his market dissolved, the Astros made an attempt to sign reigning NL Cy Young Award-winner Blake Snell, but came up short. Snell instead signed a two-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Montgomery's deal with the D-backs was for a mere $25 million, plus a vesting option for 2025.

Both of those contracts, especially Montgomery's, would seem to be within the limits of what the Astros could've offered. But sources constantly cited ownership's hesitancy to go past the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. However, that would have been a non-issue if the Astros hadn't signed Josh Hader earlier this offseason.

Did the Astros make a mistake signing Josh Hader instead of Jordan Montgomery?

Knowing what we now know, it's fair to question signing Hader to the largest contract ever received by a relief pitcher. First, having seen how the market deteriorated over the last several weeks, the case could be made the Astros panicked after losing Kendall Graveman and overpaid for Hader.

There's no denying that Houston needed to fill innings in the bullpen. The Astros had already seen Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryen Stanek enter free agency. Throw in Graveman's season-ending surgery, and Houston needed to make some additions.

But rather than attempting to re-sign Neris and Stanek for, say, a combined $15 million, Houston inked Hader to a five-year deal with an average annual value of $19 million.

Hader is one of the best closers in the game, but Houston already had a good one in Ryan Pressly. The Astros have another young arm in the bullpen by the name of Bryan Abreu who has closer-type stuff. Yes, Hader makes the back end of the Astros bullpen better, but was it necessary given that Houston already had Pressly and Abreu locking down the eighth and ninth innings?

Throw in the injuries to Justin Verlander, Jose Uquidy, Luis Garcia, and Lance McCullers Jr., and you can see why Houston was targeting the likes of Snell and Montgomery over the past few weeks. The Astros are entering Opening Day with a rotation that includes now J.P. France and Ronel Blanco.

Per Cot's Baseball Contracts, if you remove the $19 million Houston is paying Hader this season and add in Montgomery's $25 million salary, the Astros projected payroll would be sitting at around $264 million. That would have left about $12 million for the Astros to dole out to other relievers in order to bolster the bullpen and still steer clear of the 42.5% surcharge that comes once teams exceed $277 million in payroll.

Did the Astros make the right decision? That's a question for another day, but it's definitely worth thinking about.

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