Position: Relief Pitcher
Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Born: March 22, 1984 (Age 32)
A familiar face emerges on the free agent market this winter for Mets fans, as reliever Joe Smith looks for a new home after his three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Los Angeles Angles comes to an end. He finished the 2016 season with the World Champion Chicago Cubs, as he was traded right before the August 1 deadline. Smith was not carried on any of the Cubs’ postseason rosters however.
The sidearm throwing Smith was originally drafted by the Mets in 2006 in the 3rd round (94th overall pick), and made his Major League debut in 2007 with the Amazins’. He appeared in 54 games, posting a 3-2 record in 44.1 innings with a 3.45 ERA and 9.1 SO/9.
Smith followed up that solid rookie campaign with an impressive 2008 season, where he was tied for third in the majors in games (82), a 62.6% ground ball rate (8th), and posted a 6-3 record with a 3.55 ERA.
Since 2009, Smith has been one of the most reliable relievers in the game, appearing in 503 games (7th among Major League relievers), with a 2.80 ERA, 146 holds (5th), 1.151 WHIP, and 203 runners stranded (6th).
Smith’s best overall season came in 2014 as a member of the Angels, where he posted a career best 1.81 ERA, tied his career high in wins with seven, pitched a career high 74.2 innings, had a career high 68 strikeouts, and posted his best WHIP at 0.804 (6th in the majors).
For his career, Smith has fared much better against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .215/.286/.305 slash line, compared to lefties who have slashed .244/.337/.369.
Smith is at his best when he induces ground balls, currently at a 56.2% rate for his career. When batters hit ground balls off of Smith, the results are rarely in their favor, as he has held them to a .210/.210/.220 slash line in 920 at-bats.
When Smith was initially traded to the Cubs this August, he got off to a rocky start, appearing in six games and allowing three runs on six hits and four walks in 3.2 innings pitched, resulting in a lopsided 7.36 ERA.
The Cubs placed Smith on the 15-day disabled list on August 17 due to a left hamstring strain, the same issue he was battling with the Angels in June before they placed him on the 15-day disabled list as well.
Once Smith was activated in September, he made a complete 180 turnaround and posted a 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched, striking out 12 while holding opponents to a .156 batting average against.
Smith should have a bunch of suitors this winter, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, and Cardinals. Jon Heyman at FanRag Sports predicts Smith would sign a two-year, $8 million deal, which would be a steal for a guy that routinely appeared in 70 plus games between 2011-15.
His price tag took a hit due to his two hamstring injuries last season, and could be viewed as a great low/risk high reward option for a team searching for bullpen help. Plus the fact that Smith is a sidearm reliever, which Joe Maddon referred to as “funk in the bullpen” upon his arrival from Los Angeles, adds intrigue to teams looking to give right-handed hitters a tougher time at the plate.
I could envision a two or three year deal for Smith, with an average annual salary around $5-6 million.
The Mets should be looking into the Joe Smith market, along with a bevy of other relievers on the free agent and trade markets. Smith’s ties to the organization should make it a smoother transition if he were to return to the team that drafted him.
The Mets could use his services, especially with the prospect of Jeurys Familia facing a considerable suspension to start the 2017 season due to the simple assault charges stemming from his arrest.
Smith also comes with a lowered price tag compared to his counterparts available in free agency, such as Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman. Smith would definitely be a welcomed addition the Mets’ pen, but they might be better suited trying to find a replacement for the left hander Jerry Blevins, if not resigning him.