Astros, reliever Montero agree on 3-year deal

November 16th, 2022

HOUSTON -- The Astros made official on Tuesday the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Rafael Montero to a three-year deal. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but sources told MLB Network insider Jon Morosi it was for $34.5 million over the three years.

Montero, acquired from the Mariners on July 27, 2021, after posting a 7.27 ERA in 40 games for Seattle, appeared in a career-high 71 games this year in the regular season for the Astros, posting a 2.37 ERA and saving a career-high 14 games. He was a key part of Houston’s lights-out bullpen in the postseason, allowing two earned runs in 9 1/3 innings while appearing in 10 of 13 games.

“He was solid and he pitched well all year and was good in the eighth and closed some games,” Astros owner Jim Crane said. “He was our closer for a while. He had quite a year, was an integral piece. We wanted to keep the bullpen intact, which was pretty good all year.”

With Montero in the fold, the Astros will return all of their key relievers next year from a bullpen that led the Major Leagues with a 2.80 ERA in the regular season and had a 0.83 ERA in 54 1/3 innings in the postseason. That was the lowest mark in postseason history (minimum 35 innings), and the bullpen also set the playoff mark for the lowest WHIP (0.75) and lowest opponents’ batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.126/.215/.208).

Montero, 32, has an injury history. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018, dealt with tendinitis in his surgically repaired elbow when he returned in 2020 and spent the last two months of the 2021 season sidelined with right shoulder discomfort, but he remained healthy for the entire 2022 season.

In eight seasons, Montero has made 212 career appearances for the Mets (2014-17), Rangers (2019-20), Mariners (2021) and Astros (2021-22), primarily as a reliever. He has posted a 4.64 ERA with 357 strikeouts in 356 2/3 innings.

Front office update
Last week’s bombshell news that James Click wouldn’t return for a fourth season as general manager after being unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension was the first of several moves in the baseball operations department. Assistant general manager Scott Powers, who came from the Dodgers last offseason, was also let go.

The Astros then promoted Bill Firkus and Charles Cook to assistant general manager, joining Andrew Ball as assistant GMs. Firkus was the senior director of baseball strategy, and Cook was senior director of player evaluation.

Coaching staff updates
With manager Dusty Baker returning on a one-year deal to manage the club in 2023, at least two members of his coaching staff have reached deals to return to the Astros. Bench coach Joe Espada and first-base coach Omar Lopez will both return to Baker’s staff next year. The Astros have yet to finalize the rest of the coaching staff.