Astros reliever Joe Smith will miss six to eight months after tearing his Achilles while working out, per The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond:
Astros reliever Joe Smith ruptured his Achilles while working out. He has undergone surgery and will miss six-to-eight months.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) December 20, 2018
Interestingly, this is the one-year anniversary of it being announced that then-Orioles closer Zach Britton had torn his Achilles while working out and would miss 6-8 months. Though Baltimore may have rushed him back a bit in an attempt to reestablish his value prior to the trade deadline, Britton ended up returning on June 12, so that should provide somewhat of a framework for what Smith’s recovery timeline will look like.
The 34-year-old Smith, a right-handed sidearmer who made 70-plus appearances in five straight seasons for the Indians and Angels between 2011-15, is no longer the every-other-day type reliever that he once was, having made 56 appearances in 2018 while posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.01 WHIP over 45.2 innings. but he was still a rather important component to Houston’s bullpen, and he’ll without a doubt be missed. It’ll be interesting to see if his injury motivates the Astros to go out and add another proven reliever; Houston’s bullpen is already going to be weakened rather substantially by Collin McHugh moving back into the rotation next year, and depending on whether they add any starting pitchers as the offseason progresses, it’s possible that guys like Brad Peacock, Josh James, and Framber Valdez could also return to starting as the team attempts to replace the injured Lance McCullers Jr. and free agents Charlie Morton (who is reportedly set to join the Rays, though he somehow still hasn’t finalized his deal) and Dallas Keuchel.
In addition to the previously mentioned pitchers who are capable of both starting and relieving, Houston’s proven bullpen options include Roberto Osuna, Hector Rondon, Ryan Pressly, Chris Devenski, and Will Harris. With so many major-league clubs now shuttling pitchers between the majors and minors for their last few bullpen spots, the Astros may actually enjoy the flexibility provided by Smith’s absence, as it will allow them to give early-season opportunities to younger relievers with minor-league options.