Setup man Rafael Montero is returning to the World Series champions. The right-hander has agreed to a three-year, $34.5 million contract to remain with the Houston Astros, reports ESPN. The team has not yet confirmed the news.
The case could be made Montero was the best reliever left on the free agent market with Edwin Díaz ( ) and Robert Suarez ( ) having re-signed with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, respectively. :
On July 27, 2021, Montero was shipped from Seattle to Houston as part of a four-player trade. He was sporting an airplane ERA in 40 appearances, and it was conceivable that he would be non-tendered in the winter. The Astros kept him around, and they have to be thankful they did: Montero has made 75 regular-season appearances since the trade, amassing a 2.18 ERA along the way. He throws four pitches, including a pair of mid-to-upper 90s fastballs, and none of them clock in slower than 87 mph. He's a power pitcher, in other words, who generates the necessary force to live in that velocity bracket by achieving an impressive amount of separation between his shoulders and his hips at foot strike. He also benefits from one of the flattest planes from his release point to the top of the zone in the majors. He's heading for a multi-year deal this winter, and rightly so. What a turnaround.
The $11.5 million average annual value of Montero's contract is fifth highest among active reliever contracts. Only Díaz ($20.4 million), Liam Hendriks ($18 million), Ryan Pressly ($15 million), and Raisel Iglesias ($14.5 million) make more per year.
Montero, 32, struck out 73 batters with a strong 52.9 percent ground ball in 68 1/3 innings as Pressly's primary setup man this past season. He is one of manager Dusty Baker's most trusted high-leverage relievers and will likely continue to be used as such.
Kenley Jansen now stands out as the best available reliever with Díaz, Montero, and Suarez all signed.