It has been roughly three long weeks since the Astros signed backup catcher Dustin Garneau to a one-year deal. If you don’t remember this news, well, I don’t blame you. In the meantime, we’ve seen Gerrit Cole trade in his majestic beard for pinstripes, Anthony Rendon’s decision to forgo his national loyalty for a heavenly one, and even more sign stealing news. This offseason hasn’t exactly been kind to the Astros for a plethora of reasons.
That said, there is a bit of positive news to report as free-agent reliever Joe Smith has agreed to keep Houston his professional home for the next two seasons. One can describe my mood towards this news as mildly pleased.
The Astros re-signed free agent reliever Joe Smith to a two-year deal.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) December 16, 2019
The 35-year old right-hander is scheduled to earn $8 million under this new pact, as tweeted here by Jake Kaplan of The Athletic. The Astros, in turn, manage to keep some continuity in a bullpen that still might lose a couple of key pieces via free agency. Although an Achilles injury and subsequent recovery kept Smith on the IL until mid-July, the veteran reliever posted a terrific 1.80 ERA in 25 innings this year. Smith’s slider, in particular, held opposing hitters to just a .084 wOBA last season, while the pitch’s usage rate at 41 percent represented a new career-high.
While he may not be a fearsome strikeout machine, Smith does provide quality innings in a variety of situations, thanks in part to his usually dependable groundball tendencies. The Astros have seen those results up close and personal during the past two seasons. And for a club with postseason hopes again in 2020, Smith represents a dependable option for a reliever who has never posted an ERA higher than 3.83 in his big league career.