Reliever Rafael Montero agreed to a three-year, $34.5 million contract that will return the right-hander to the Houston Astros’ dominant bullpen a week after the team rode its home run to the World Series, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN.
Montero, 32, thrived in his first full season with the Astros, posting a 2.37 ERA in 68⅓ innings and allowing just three home runs while striking out 73. The deal came in a transition Friday for the Astros, who saw general manager James Click. reject a one-year contract from owner Jim Crane and leave the club.
Re-signing Montero deepens an Astros bullpen that will already return closer Ryan Pressly, right-handed pitchers Ryne Stanek and Bryan Abreu and reliable righties Hector Neris and Phil Maton. It also continues the early trend of high-salary free agency deals for relief pitchers, after the New York Mets signed Edwin Diaz to a five-year, $102 million contract and San Diego gave right-hander Robert Suarez a five-year, $46 million contract. .
Houston acquired Montero in a July 2021 trade from the Seattle Mariners and watched him blossom into the toughest version of himself yet, with a fastball that averaged 96.5 mph. Of the relievers remaining in free agency, Montero was at the top of many teams’ lists.
The contract is a bet on Montero’s 2022 more than his previous seasons. Once a highly regarded starter, Montero bounced from the Mets to the Texas Rangers to the Mariners before landing in Houston, where he allowed two runs in 9⅓ innings this season and struck out 10 batters.
With a field goal percentage of over 50% and a high strikeout rate, Montero should have generated widespread interest and capitalized on it with a deal that exceeded industry expectations. In 182 career games, Montero has a 4.43 ERA as a reliever and struck out 213 in 201⅓ innings.