Braves and Astros to trade Will Smith for Jake Odorizzi

The Astros acquire a reliever Will Smith Braves to start Jake Odorizzireports Fox 26’s Mark Berman (Twitter link).

Odorizzi has been considered an expendable piece for the Astros, perhaps at least since he was dropped from the club’s ALDS roster last October. He worked on a six-man rotation this year in Houston, but Lance McCullers Jr. is set to make his season debut as he recovers from a sprained forearm. Odorizzi, 32, has thrown a solid 3.75 ERA in a dozen starts for the Astros this year, averaging exactly five innings per outing. He’s a flyball pitcher who’s never been particularly good at missing bats, but he’s been able to dodge hard hits this year to generate some good results.

It would appear Atlanta’s motivation here is to add veteran depth to the end of their rotation, which has consisted almost entirely of Max fried, Kyle Wright, charlie morton, Ian Andersonand rookie feeling Spencer Strider. Anderson has struggled to hit a 4.99 ERA, while Strider has hit 80 1/3 innings this season after throwing a career-high 94 last year. Odorizzi’s last outing was a great business showcase for Houston — seven scoreless innings against the Mariners. Odorizzi had injured his leg in May, knocking him out for seven weeks, and suffered a blister before the start against Seattle.

Odorizzi’s contract is a factor here. He earns $5 million this year (about $1.79 million remains), but would earn $500,000 for reaching 100 innings plus $1 million each at 110, 120, 130, 140, and 150 innings. Odorizzi currently sits at 60 innings, so 120 would seem to be the likely ceiling. Odorizzi also has a player option worth $6.5 million with a $3.25 million buyout, but as Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle explains, “Odorizzi’s player option can reach a base salary of $12.5 million and a buyout of $6.25 million – but only if he plays 30 games in which he records 12 or more outs in 2021-22.After Sunday, Odorizzi has 29 games like this in 2021-22 Given that the pitcher appears to have at least $3 million in play to make another four inning start, it was mutually beneficial for the Astros to find a more comfortable team to allow him to reach this threshold and obtain some performance bonuses.

Smith, 33, was the top reliever in the 2019-20 free agent class. The Braves signed him to a big three-year, $40 million deal, also giving up their second-round pick and $500,000 in international bonus money. Smith’s effectiveness declined in Atlanta as he was often downed by longball and increasingly poor control. He brought the Braves closer to an acceptable 2021 regular season but then became a major factor in their run to the playoffs with 11 scoreless innings and six saves. Smith will forever be immortalized as a 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 ranked seventh in that regard and was used in a catch-up role. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.comSmith probably would have been the odd man out for Atlanta once a veteran reliever Kirby Yates is activated. Smith makes $13 million this year (about $4.6 million remains), and he’ll be owed a $1 million buyout for 2023.

Smith joins a Houston bullpen led by Ryan Pressley, Raphael Montero, Hector Neris, Ryne Stanekand Phil Maton. None of these pitchers throw left-handed, and the 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’ solid reputation in that department, could right the ship.

If Odorizzi ends up with 110-119 innings, the Braves will end up paying him about $3.3 million in total. In Smith’s trade, Atlanta lost a financial commitment of about $5.6 million, so they would “gain” $2.3 million in the trade assuming they didn’t include d money in the transaction. It’s also possible that Odorizzi is 110 innings short. Money aside, this trade represents each team dealing with a surplus to better meet its needs.

It was a busy night for Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who also traded for the Tigers outfielder Robbie Grosman. Likewise, Astros GM James Click was active today on the eve of the trade deadline, also adding catcher Christian Vazquez of Boston and first baseman Trey Mancini of the Orioles.

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