Houston continues to mine the free agent market, looking for any available, experienced arm. To that end, the Astros have agreed to terms with right-hander Alay Soler on a one-year deal.
Soler, who hasn't pitched since last season, is expected to report to Kissimmee on Sunday. He will sign the $400,000 split deal [$12,000 in the Minor Leagues] on Monday and proceed to spend at least the next two weeks in extended Spring Training. He's then expected to report to Triple-A Round Rock.
The Mets originally signed the Cuban defector as a free agent in 2004 to a three-year $2.8 million deal, touting him as a middle to top of the rotation starter. Problems with his visa and his former agent, however, kept Soler, 28, out of the United States until 2006. He appeared in 20 games that year for New York and it's affiliates, going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in eight starts. One of his victories was a complete-game shutout at Arizona on June 10, 2006.
But Soler, who was 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA in 12 Minor League games in 2006, was ineffective last spring, and the Mets released him in the middle of March. He signed with the Pirates shortly thereafter, was sent to Altoona of the Double-A Eastern League where he was used sporadically. He went 1-1 in 14 games (five starts) with a 6.00 ERA.
Disgruntled with what was perceived as a lack of commitment from the Pirates, he asked for and was granted his release last June. Soler pitched for Aguilas Cibaenas during the Dominican Winter League season, going 0-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 22 2/3 innings. He appeared to have a deal worked out with Colorado right before the beginning of Spring Training this season, but it fell through.
"He's been training like an animal," Joe Rosario, Soler's agent said. "He's running seven miles a day and lifting weights. He's in the same form he was when the Mets signed him. We just wanted an opportunity and [Houston general manager] Ed Wade gave it to him."
Soler pitched five seasons for Pinal Del Rio of the Cuban League, going 24-9 with 22 saves and a 2.55 ERA. He led that circuit in ERA twice and was the MVP in 2003.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.