Joe Smith should be an upgrade over Luke Gregerson. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
The MLB winter meetings are in full swing, and yesterday brought some good news for Astros fans. The team went out and did exactly what they needed to do, they got better in the bullpen. They signed free agent Joe Smith to a two-year deal.
The 33 year-old right-hander has bounced around a bit in the majors but he's been consistently good (not great, but very good) for his career. In 10 seasons he has a career 2.97 era, a solid 1.185 WHIP, is striking out 7.9 batters per 9 innings. Last year between Toronto and Cleveland he put up a 3.33 era and a 1.037 whip. He's a side-arm pitcher that can be down right filthy versus right handed batters.
But let's be clear, Joe Smith isn't a closer. There was a year where he picked up 15 saves, but that's not his role, and never really has been. He's a quality arm that provides depth to a bullpen that badly needed it. He will most likely be the 7th or 8th inning guy. He's also know as a very good high leverage arm, so you might see him a bit earlier if there is more on the line in game situations..
So are the Astros really better because of this?
You bet. When you think about it in terms of arms in the pen, the Astros swapped out Luke Gregerson (signed with the Cardinals) for Smith. It's crazy (and exciting) to think that the team that won the World Series last year just got a little bit better.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
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