In an offseason where the Toronto Blue Jays replaced Edwin Encarnacion with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, and barely re-signed Jose Bautista, it was a relief to see the name Joe Smith, and the words “Signed with the Toronto Blue Jays” in the same sentence.
Once the offseason began, the Blue Jays needed to add a few arms to the bullpen, especially after losing Brett Cecil to free agency. After signing J.P. Howell, most Jays fans were still hoping that Toronto could bring in a more bonafide reliever to complete their bullpen. Toronto did exactly that, signing Joe Smith to a one-year $3 million dollar contract.
The 32-year-old played for both the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs last season. In what many would suggest as a down year for the veteran, Smith still ended with a respectable 3.46 ERA. Last season, Smith let up far more home runs than he usually does and had an unimpressive year fielding-wise. What many seem to forget is that Smith was on the DL this past June after injuring his hamstring, and possibly wasn’t playing at 100% the rest of the way.
Mark Shapiro angered most Jays fans when he signed J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada instead of David Price last offseason. Looking back now, maybe Shapiro saw something that most didn’t, because Happ and Estrada were key parts to Toronto’s ALCS run, while David Price had the worst year of his career. Instead of going after big name relievers this offseason, Mark Shapiro brought in J.P. Howell and Joe Smith, a reliever that pitched well during his 5 years under Shapiro in Cleveland. While Jays fans expected for Shapiro to bring in an elite name into a highly criticized bullpen, most are now hoping that he can say “I told you so”, and that Howell and Smith have good seasons.
Smith boasts an impressive 2.93 ERA over his 10-year career. His ability to fool batters with his fastball, slider, and occasional changeup should be effective in a bat-heavy AL East.
Joe Smith can be flexible in Toronto’s system. Right-handed batters have hit just .212 against Smith over his career. Smith has shown the MLB that he can be a productive arm out of the bullpen, regardless of what point of the game he pitches in. This signing can make John Gibbons job a lot easier because he now has a right-handed specialist at his disposal who can bail him out in close game situations as the year progresses.
The MLB season will be in full swing before you know it. Hopefully, a healthy Joe Smith at the back of an underrated Blue Jays bullpen that includes Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, and J.P. Howell can make things easier for Toronto’s starters.