The Astros get a reliever Will Smith from the Braves to start Jake Odorizzireports Mark Berman of Fox 26 (Twitter link).
Odorizzi has been seen as a replaceable piece for the Astros, perhaps at least since he was removed from the club’s ALDS roster in October last year. He worked this year as part of a six-man rotation in Houston, but Lance McCullers Jr. is about to make his season debut as he recovers from a forearm injury. The 32-year old Odorizzi threw to a solid 3.75 ERA in a dozen starts for the Astros this year, averaging exactly five innings per appearance. He’s a flyball pitcher who’s never been particularly adept at missing bats, but he’s been able to avoid hard hits this year to get good results.
It seems Atlanta’s motivation here is to add veteran depth to the back of their rotation, which consisted almost entirely of: Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Charlie Morton, Ian Andersonand rookie sensation Spencer Strider. Anderson struggled with a 4.99 ERA, while Strider has reached 80 1/3 innings of the season after throwing a career-high 94 last year. Odorizzi’s final appearance served as an excellent trade showcase for Houston – seven scoreless innings against the Mariners. Odorizzi had injured his leg in May, which left him out for seven weeks, and suffered a blister before the start against Seattle.
Odorizzi’s contract plays a role in this. He will earn $5 MM this year (about $1.79 MM remains), but would win $500K on reaching 100 innings plus $1 MM each in 110, 120, 130, 140 and 150 innings. Odorizzi is currently on 60 turns, so 120 seems to be the likely ceiling. Odorizzi also has a $6.5 MM player option with a $3.25 MM buyout, but as the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome explains, “Odorizzi’s player option can have a maximum base salary of $12.5 million. and earn a $6.25 million buyout — but only if he enters 30 matches in which he scores 12 or more outs in 2021-22. After Sunday, Odorizzi will have 29 such matches in 2021-22.” Given that the pitcher appears to have at least $3MM on the line in making another four-innings start, it was mutually beneficial for the Astros to find a team that is more up to date. felt comfortable letting him hit that threshold and get a few performance bonuses.
Smith, 33, was the top free class reliever of 2019-20. The Braves signed him to a hefty three-year $40MM contract, which also saw them hand in their second round draft pick and $500K in international bonus pool money. Smith’s effectiveness waned in Atlanta, as he was often reeled in by the longball and increasingly poor control. He was the Braves’ closer in the 2021 regular season to acceptable results, but then became a key factor in their postseason run with 11 scoreless innings and six saves. Smith will forever be immortalized as the pitcher on the mound when the Braves won it all last year.
In March, the Braves signed Kenley Jansen, pushing Smith into a setup role. Smith was at times the Braves’ third-highest leverage reliever this season, but in July he was seventh in that regard and was used more in a polishing role. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.comSmith would probably have been the odd man out for Atlanta, once an accomplished reliever Kirby Yates is activated. Smith will earn $13MM this year (about $4.6MM remains), plus he will have to pay a $1MM buyout before 2023.
Smith joins a Houston bullpen led by Ryan Pressly, Raphael Montero, Hector Neris, Ryne Stanekand Phil Maton. None of those pitchers throw left-handed, and left-handed Blake Taylor hit the IL in June with elbow inflammation. Smith has never relied on speed, so it’s possible that a fresh look at his mechanics and pitch mix, especially given the Astros’ strong reputation in that division, could set the ship straight.
If Odorizzi ends with 110-119 innings, the Braves will pay him about $3.3 million in total. When trading Smith, Atlanta lost a financial commitment of about $5.6MM, so they would “win” $2.3MM in the exchange, assuming they don’t include cash in the deal. It is also possible that Odorizzi is 110 turns short. Money aside, this trade represents any team trading from surplus to better serve its needs.
It was a busy night for Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos, who also traded for Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman. Similarly, Astros GM James Click has been active today on the eve of the trading deadline and also added catcher Christian Vazquez from Boston and first baseman Trey Mancinic of the Orioles.