Longtime Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez signs with the Houston Astros

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Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez throws against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez throws against the Atlanta Braves during the 2020 National League Championship Series. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Pedro Báez, a mainstay in the Dodgers bullpen for the last seven seasons, has agreed to a two-year contract with the Houston Astros pending a physical, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The contract includes a club option for a third year and guarantees Báez at least $12.5 million.

Báez made $4 million in 2020, a prorated sum after winning his arbitration case last winter. He is the first of the Dodgers' eight free agents to sign with another team.

His departure comes a week after the Dodgers re-signed Blake Treinen to a two-year deal with a team option for 2023 that will pay him at least $17.5 million. The Dodgers weren't as keen on bringing Báez back at a price point in that neighborhood a year after offering him a two-year contract that he declined.

Báez, who will turn 33 in March, signed with the Dodgers as a third baseman out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. He was converted to a pitcher in the minors in 2013 and made his major league debut the next season at age 26.

He became a reliable reliever for the next seven years, posting a 3.03 ERA across 355 games, and appeared in at least 52 games each season between 2015 and 2019. Only Kenley Jansen pitched in more games and compiled more innings out of the Dodgers' bullpen. But he drew ire for his slow tempo and occasional hiccup in high-leverage spots. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came to Báez's defense after he was booed when he entered a game at Dodger Stadium in September 2017.

"I absolutely think it's ridiculous," Roberts said after the game.

Báez finished the 2017 regular season with a 2.95 ERA in 66 games, but struggled in September, pitching to a 10.38 ERA in 11 appearances. He was left off the postseason roster. The Dodgers went on to lose to the Astros in seven games in the World Series without him. Two years later, Houston's cheating scheme was exposed, igniting a scandal and fiery rebukes from Dodgers players.

Báez never quite found a rhythm in his final year as a Dodger. He reported late to summer camp in July after twice being exposed to a teammate with COVID-19, but never tested positive. He later missed three weeks with a strained right groin.

He made 18 appearances in the regular season, allowing six earned runs and striking out 13 batters in 17 innings. He was then charged with three runs across 7 2/3 innings in eight postseason outings.

Báez collected two saves and six holds, but struggled when inheriting runners on base. All seven of his inherited runners in the regular season and playoffs came around to score, including two he allowed on a go-ahead by Brandon Lowe in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ Game 4 loss in the World Series.

Báez, however, delivered in Game 6. Brought on to begin the fifth inning that night, he retired the first two batters he faced before being removed after a two-out single, helping the Dodgers’ bullpen complete 7⅓ innings of scoreless relief and clinch the series.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.