The Houston Astros have acquired RHPs Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero from the Houston Astros in exchange for RHP Joe Smith and IF Abraham Toro.
This is a perplexing trade for the Mariners. Montero was recently designated for assignment, so it is not a surprise to see him go. But Graveman? He has been the team’s best reliever this season. For a squad that has a chance to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001, selling should not be the option. Also, if you are going to sell, then sell. The return does not consist of prospects. Smith is a veteran who has had a successful career, but has also looked washed in 2021. Toro is a young third baseman with a good amount of MLB experience. However, he is not an exceptional defender and his offense has been below-average. In his three seasons with Houston, Toro’s wOBA is just .275. The main potential for Toro is his 2019 AA and AAA season, where he hit 17 home runs with a .938 OPS. Perhaps teams see him as a J.D. Davis 2.0 if he gets a starting job. Given how good Graveman has been, the trade can be jarring. He is primed for regression, which is a sliver of good news for Seattle. Meanwhile, Smith is on the opposite side of the spectrum, with an xERA nearly three runs better than his actual ERA. The active leader in relief appearances may not have much more left in the tank.
Toro, 24, has hit six home runs with three stolen bases, a .287 OBP, and a .672 OPS in 122 Plate Appearances for Houston this year. In his MLB career, all for the Astros, Toro has hit 11 home runs with five stolen bases, a .276 OBP, and a .626 OPS in 308 Plate Appearances.
Smith, 37, has a 7.48 ERA with 17 strikeouts and a 1.800 WHIP in 21.2 innings for Houston this year. In his MLB career for the Astros, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs, Smith has a 3.11 ERA with 632 strikeouts and a 1.184 WHIP in 717 innings pitched.
The Astros are going to the playoffs once again, with the bullpen being their main weakness. After this trade, the pen is much better than it was earlier today. Montero’s numbers look really bad, but he also has been one of the league’s unluckiest pitchers. Montero has a 3.73 xERA, a .298 xwOBA, and a good 86.7 mph average exit velocity. These are all decent numbers. However, his actual ERA and wOBA are much, much worse, meaning that he is a prime candidate for positive regression. Graveman has an elite H/9 this season at just 4.1, which has helped him tremendously. After Tommy John surgery, Graveman’s velocity has spiked up. This year it has averaged 96.5 mph. To add two potentially solid pieces for two players who were doing more harm this year is a smart move.
Graveman, 30, has a 0.82 ERA with 34 strikeouts and a 0.697 WHIP in 33 innings pitched for Seattle in 2021. In his MLB career for the Mariners, Oakland Athletics, and Toronto Blue Jays, Graveman has a 4.20 ERA with 335 strikeouts and a 1.326 WHIP in 497.2 innings.
Montero, 30, has a 7.27 ERA with 37 strikeouts and a 1.638 WHIP in 43.1 innings for the Mariners this year. In his MLB career for the Mariners, Texas Rangers, and New York Mets, he has a 5.29 ERA with 279 strikeouts and a 1.576 WHIP in 282.1 innings.