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Smith officially joins Astros' bullpen

Hinch's sales pitch pays off with righty's two-year deal
MLB.com @alysonfooter and @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled double duty at Tony Sipp's wedding recently. While celebrating the nuptials of the left-handed reliever, he was also making a pitch of his own -- a sales pitch of sorts to then free-agent reliever Joe Smith.

Negotiations between the Astros and the veteran sidearmer were already underway, and Hinch had been needling general manager Jeff Luhnow to "hurry" up the negotiating process.

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled double duty at Tony Sipp's wedding recently. While celebrating the nuptials of the left-handed reliever, he was also making a pitch of his own -- a sales pitch of sorts to then free-agent reliever Joe Smith.

Negotiations between the Astros and the veteran sidearmer were already underway, and Hinch had been needling general manager Jeff Luhnow to "hurry" up the negotiating process.

"I was ready to sign him at Tony Sipp's wedding," Hinch said. "It was nice of Sipp to get married so we could start the recruiting process."

Smith, a former roommate of Sipp, met and mingled with several Astros players at the reception. Shortly thereafter, he became their teammate, signing a two-year deal worth $15 million, according to sources. Smith, who will wear uniform No. 38, was introduced at a news conference at Minute Maid Park Thursday morning.

"I'm pumped," Smith said of joining the defending World Series champions. "This is great. Obviously, what they did last year, it gets even more exciting when you think of everybody coming back and the possibilities for [2018]. To be a part of it, I can't wait. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Video: Smith on how Astros' culture impacted his decision

The 33-year-old Smith 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 appearances with the Indians, Angels, Mets, Cubs and Jays.

A couple of months ago, Smith was looking forward to his Indians facing the Astros in a seven-game American League Championship Series. Instead, the Indians were bounced by the Yankees in the AL Division Series, and the Astros went on to win the World Series. For Smith, signing with Houston was a logical next move.

"They have the best chance to win the World Series," he said. "That's why we play, right?"

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

"Not only is he devastating against right-handers -- and there's a lot of right-handed batters in our division and our league, and more every day, it seems -- but he also has weapons against left-handers," Luhnow said.

Video: Smith discusses the growing relief pitcher market

Among keys to Smith's success in the past two seasons is the drop in exit velocity of opposing hitters. According to Statcast™, among pitchers that gave up a minimum of 100 balls in play in both 2016 and '17, Smith had the third-biggest drop in exit velocity at 5 mph. Others in the top five are Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Sean Doolittle and Cody Allen.

The Astros' deep October run delayed their offseason maneuvering. Soon after Luhnow and his staff arrived to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the Winter Meetings, relievers started flying off the free-agent market.

The Astros had offered contracts to Mike Minor and Anthony Swarzak before they signed elsewhere, and Smith was another pitcher near the top of their list. The deal was consummated on Wednesday.

Video: Joe Smith discusses facing tough lineups on Hot Stove

"We went in [to the Winter Meetings] with a goal of getting out of there with a reliever that was close to the top of the list," Luhnow said. "And that's what we accomplished. We got what we wanted."

When Smith arrives to Spring Training in West Palm Beach, Fla., he'll have at least a little familiarity with a handful of his new teammates, thanks in part to Sipp's wedding. Smith said he met Hinch, Evan Gattis and George Springer and recalled seeing Jake Marisnick as well.

"Just talking to those guys and seeing everybody having fun and seeing how much fun they had over the last year, it means a lot," Smith said. "Nobody wants to go to a place where one, you're going to lose or, two, you're not going to have any fun. I'm excited to be able to do both."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

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

Houston Astros, Joe Smith