Let's take a look at the move and what the ripple effects may be as the Astros approach free agents without a GM
The Houston Astros announced a 3-year, $34.5 million contract extension for RHP Rafael Montero this morning. The front office is not wasting anytime considering the absence of a GM, extending one of their premium relievers from the 2022 championship campaign that ended only a week ago.
Montero, 32, was the setup man for the Astros in 2022. Acquired as part of the Kendall Graveman trade in 2021, he was one of the brighter spots in James Click’s GM tenure. The upside Montero showed in 2022 made me consider if the real value was in Montero all along.
Now, the Astros have their setup man for the next three seasons. However, it won’t come without risk. As we look further into who Montero is on the mound, we must ask ourselves what drove to his success in 2022 as compared to his career?
It’s important to recognize how successful Montero was in 2022. He was in the top 10% of all pitchers in generating lower exit velocity, XSLG, WOBA,XWOBA,XWOBACOM and xERA. He posted the highest RAR and WAR numbers of his career. The argument can be made he had the best possible season for his case heading into free agency.
So, let's do a short comparison below. The AAV may give away who is who, but this comparison sheds light into how the salary doesn’t truly resonate to the value of the pitcher when given context.
Both players are expected to post 0.4 WAR’s in 2023. Montero is heading into 2023 at the age of 32, player X will be 34. Montero has never pitched more than 49 innings in relief until his age 31 season, which Player X pitched more than 65 inning in 5 of his 8 years of service. Player X is Hector Neris.
As we look at this deal, the AAV should have been $9M, as some could consider this season as the anomaly to who Montero is in entirety. In a way, analytics would be a much bigger resource to the decision-making when it comes to factoring age, prior performance and how it projects into the future. Based on rumblings, it could be a deviation from that type of thinking that led us to this point, and beyond.
Let's play the comparison game again. This time, comparing two other relief pitchers to Montero.
We know Player A is Montero, as player B and C are LHPs. The data above shows us what the mean, their career stats, are for each player. Although Montero outperformed then in 4 of 6 categories in 2022, the career stats show B and C have generated better numbers in almost double the innings. Considering the Astros enter 2023 without a LHP on the staff, and little to offset that in the system, the idea of bringing in B or C would be ideal.
You can argue that it doesn't matter sense we didn't utilize Will Smith at all in the 2022 postseason. Yet B and C profile better against both sides of the plate compared to Smith when comparing wOBA.
The players above are in Larry the GM's free agent outlook, were we diagnose the weaknesses, address them with free agent signings and the potential contracts and compensation levels. Click the button below for more details.
What does this deal tell me?
I believe this deal is the culmination of a couples of things. First, the lack of a GM in this position would lend ourselves to unprecedented spending. The idea that what has happened will be what is to come is a "hothand fallacy" for me in baseball. Larry and I have been adamant that this bullpen will not be as successful in 2023, granted the level of success had was unpredictable. Second, we may not see players return as we allocate resources this way. As more news comes out about the front office, there is more scrambling and uncertainty without much leadership a general manager could give to the organization.
This raises questions about Verlander and Brantley’s return. Obviously, one coming off a Cy Young award-winning season and the other debilitated by a shoulder injury. The value in paying salaries, either large or small, becomes a bigger concern. I think we may need to consider that JV won’t return. I know it’s not the biggest issue in 2023, but as more players become arbitration eligible, salaries will rise in result. The Astros have a big decision to make regarding if the exceed the CBT in 2023 and beyond. How will this look? If we don’t want that, we may be forced to let great players walk into free agency. Click the button below for more on the CBT and how it impacts the Astros.
I think we come back to the same point that the lack of a general manager now could drive us into a situation we are unable to navigate without shedding payroll.
Buckle up Astros fans, this may get bumpy….
Credit Fangraphs.com and BaseballSavant.com