Amid a busy two days in Cleveland Indians free agency news, one 2013 pitcher officially left as well: Reliever Matt Albers has reached a one-year deal with the Houston Astros, as first reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
The deal is worth $2.25 million with a $3 million option for 2015 and a $200K buyout. The soon-to-be 31-year-old earned $1.75 million last year with the Tribe, where he arrived via the December 2012 Shin-Soo Choo trade from Arizona.
Albers was very solid as a middle reliever for the second straight year, as he now has a 2.77 ERA in 123.1 innings since 2012. He was especially useful down the stretch for the Tribe, allowing just one earned run during the pivotal month of September mostly without the services of beleaguered closer Chris Perez.
It’s a low-money deal for the Astros, who also added veteran Chad Qualls this offseason. But it was just money the Indians likely felt comfortable passing on for bullpen help. Yes, Albers has been great two straight years and that usually carries value in the reliever market. But he also had a 4.91 ERA from 2009-2011 and has primarily been used in low-leverage situations.
Cleveland’s bullpen likely has four guaranteed spots in 2014: Closer John Axford, key setup men Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Other in-house candidates, who likely will just cost around the minimum: Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, Nick Hagadone, C.C. Lee and Preston Guilmet. Veterans Matt Capps and Mike Zagurski also have signed minor-league deals. It’s expected that Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin will get first cracks at the No. 5 rotation spot, but they also could slide into relief roles if necessary.
So in the end, the Albers-Houston deal is a cheap, low-risk one, but GM Chris Antonetti obviously felt comfortable with the names above moving forward with no salary guarantees. We’ll see if the chess move pays off.
[Related: John Axford – A Calculated Risk]