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Astros reach deal with reliever Smith

Houston finds a power arm to add to its bullpen mix
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros won't leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed. The club on Wednesday reached a two-year agreement with free-agent right-handed reliever Joe Smith on a two-year contract. The deal is for $14 million, according to a report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The side-arming Smith, 33, split last season between the Blue Jays and Indians, posting a 3.33 ERA in 59 games. He struck out 71 batters and walked 10 in 54 innings. An 11-year veteran, Smith has a career 44-28 record with a 2.97 ERA in 698 career appearances with the Indians, Angels, Mets, Cubs and Jays.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Astros won't leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed. The club on Wednesday reached a two-year agreement with free-agent right-handed reliever Joe Smith on a two-year contract. The deal is for $14 million, according to a report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The side-arming Smith, 33, split last season between the Blue Jays and Indians, posting a 3.33 ERA in 59 games. He struck out 71 batters and walked 10 in 54 innings. An 11-year veteran, Smith has a career 44-28 record with a 2.97 ERA in 698 career appearances with the Indians, Angels, Mets, Cubs and Jays.

"They have the best chance to win the World Series," Smith said of the Astros while being introduced at a news conference on Thursday. "That's why we play, right? I was on a pretty good team in the second half last year. I was looking forward to playing that seven-game [American League Championship Series] against these guys, but that didn't happen. You never know what's going to happen in this game."

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow departed the Meetings on Wednesday confident his club was on the verge of landing some bullpen help, which turned out to be Smith. Smith adds quality depth to the back end of the Astros bullpen, joining closer Ken Giles and former All-Stars Will Harris and Chris Devenski.

"Joe is a player I've been tracking since he was in the Draft out of Wright State [in 2006]," Luhnow said. "What I like about what he brings is he is devastating on right-handers."

Tweet from @astros: The #Astros have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with RHP @JSThree8. Welcome to Houston, Joe! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/Xp8zlYpRKW

The Astros could still add another reliever in the coming weeks, and it's no secret they're in need of a lefty. Several interesting lefties remain on the market, including Fernando Abad, Jorge De La Rosa, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano, who spent the final two months of last season in Houston's bullpen following a trade with Toronto.

"We'll end up with a better team before it's all said and done," Luhnow said.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm2: Smith K's Sanchez to end top of the 9th

Relief pitchers have been flying off the free-agent market in recent days, and the Astros had offered contracts to Mike Minor and Anthony Swarzak before they signed elsewhere.

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"We made investments in [Luke] Gregerson and [Pat] Neshek three years ago and made a big trade for Giles two years ago and continue to prioritize the bullpen," Luhnow said. "That's not going to change."

While Luhnow departed for Houston, some in the Astros front office remained for one more day for Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. The Astros have two available spots on the 40-man roster, and Luhnow said there's a couple of players the team has been discussing taking.

Last month, the Astros added pitchers Dean Deetz and Cionel Perez to their 40-man roster to protect from being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft. Minor League outfielders Jason Martin and Jon Kemmer were among those left unprotected by the Astros, meaning they could be plucked away by another team Thursday.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Joe Smith