The Toronto Blue Jays have reached a one-year agreement with relief pitcher Joe Smith, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
As for Smith, the 32-year-old side-armer split time between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs last season, posting a 3.46 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a 50.3 percent ground ball rate in 52 innings pitched.
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By Smith’s standards, those numbers represent a down year and was actually his worst season since 2010. Injuries were a key factor behind his decline last season. It started with a hamstring injury in June, which forced him to the disabled list, then that same injury would plague him in Chicago after the Angels traded him to the Cubs and then the team would eventually leave him off their playoff roster.
Luckily for the Blue Jays, Smith has been durable throughout his career and last season was a bit of an anomaly. Prior to last season, Smith had thrown 60 or more innings in five consecutive seasons and was easily one of baseball’s most dependable relief pitchers, posting a 2.25 ERA in 271 2/3 innings of work from 2011-14.
If you’re Toronto, you’re really hoping last seasons regression was because of injuries and not because Smith is actually regressing as a pitcher. Relievers have a track record of being volatile, but Smith has been anything but that since 2011. In fact, he’s been a model of consistency, posting a K/9 rate of 6.0 or higher, a BB/9 rate of 3.4 or less, and, aside from last season’s career-high 1.4 HR/9, he’s kept the ball in the park by posting a HR/9 rate of 0.7 or less.
Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro has a history with Smith and I’d imagine is very familiar with him, having acquired him in December of 2008 when he was the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. Say what you want about Shapiro going back to the Cleveland well, but Smith has the potential to be a nice bounceback candidate.
With Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli and recently signed J.P. Howell entrenched in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, Smith would likely fill in as a seventh or eighth inning guy and potentially contribute in high-leverage situations. Those five pitchers could form a nice late inning bullpen for Toronto.
What do you think about the Toronto Blue Jays signing Joe Smith? Do you think he can bounceback in Toronto? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.