The Astros will re-sign Rafael Montero
Rafael Montero And the Astros signed him to a three-year, $34.5MM deal. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. Montero is the third reliever to fall off the board early since the Padres re-signed him Robert Suarez and held on the Met Edwin Diaz.
Montero has amassed just a 0.1 BWAR in his career and had an ERA north of six last year, but that speaks to how good he’s looked since landing in Houston, and the initial value teams are putting in high-level relief pitching.
Montero, 32, has tossed 68 1/3 innings out of Houston’s pen this year in addition to the six innings he threw late last year after arriving from Seattle, posting a 2.18 ERA with a 26.8% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate in that span. He posted an ugly 7.27 ERA (albeit with decent peripherals) in Seattle last year, before the Astros acquired him as part of Kendall Graveman Contract In Houston, he leaned more on his fastball and reduced his use of his sinker and slider. Hitters have found his pitches incredibly difficult to square up, and he’s given up just three home runs all year (and one more in the playoffs) and ranks in the 91st percentile for average exit velocity.
It’s certainly worth noting that this isn’t the first time Montero has had some success, only to crash not too long after. The Rangers signed him to a minor league deal in 2019 after four unsuccessful years with the Mets that ended with Tommy John surgery before the ’18 campaign. He became a valuable member of the Rangers bullpen that year, throwing 29 innings of 2.28 ERA ball. He regressed a bit in 2020, but the Rangers were still able to flip him to the Mariners for a few prospects – Andrew Mesa And Jose Cornel – before the 2021 campaign, but things will unfold for him in Seattle.
While it’s easy to see the 2019 season with the Rangers and draw parallels to his past seasons with the Astros as an isolated strong season amid a broad portfolio of poor output, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he’s turned a corner for good. For example, his peripherals in 2019 were far less impressive than his actual output, and that was more than a much smaller sample size (29 innings vs. 74 1/3 in Houston). Ultimately, though, any type of multi-year free agency deal with relievers comes with a lot of risk, and given how difficult it is to predict the future performance of relievers, there’s no guarantee that Montero will perform like his life in 2022.
The deal locks up a key contributor to their World Series-winning team, but the team is eager to see such a big deal done a day after their general manager departed. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reported that assistant GM Andrew Ball and senior director of baseball strategy Bill Firkas are running day-to-day operations for the Astros following James Click’s departure, though Rome added that does not mean the two were responsible for Montero. contract
Houston’s projected salary now sits at $164MM Per roster resource, about $15MM shy of their 2022 mark. There’s every chance they’ll bring back Justin Verlander, while they can add in center field, catcher and first base, so there’s a strong possibility their salary will comfortably hit the $179MM mark through 2022.
Their bullpen was one of the strengths of their championship roster last season, and with the likes of Ryan Pressley, Brian Abreu, Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, and now the returning Montero, it’s becoming one of the best in baseball again.
It’s also good for other top relievers on the market. Montero’s $34.5MM deal follows Suarez’s five-year, $46MM deal with the Padres and Diaz’s record-breaking five-year, $102MM deal with the Mets. Overall, relievers are getting paid handsomely to enter free agency this year, and the agents of pitchers like Taylor Rogers and Kenley Jansen will certainly point teams toward these deals as a price point when going into negotiations.
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports.
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