Jays From the Couch looks at a potential option for the Toronto Blue Jays to fill a bullpen spot. Joe Smith would make a lot of sense.
While the majority of the media coverage regarding Toronto’s pending free agents surrounding Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and to some extent Michael Saunders. There hasn’t been much talk about the arms leaving the Blue Jays bullpen this winter.
With Brett Cecil looking to hit the market, and more than likely out reach for Toronto. There is no doubt they will be looking for a left-handed option to replace him. But what of the others? Deadline acquisitions Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman are sure heading to the open market, as well. To a lesser, and more uncertain extent — due to his injury history — is veteran, Gavin Floyd. What RH reliever options are out there for the Blue Jays, that would make sense?
Come on down, Joe Smith
Admittedly, Smith is not a name that jumps off the page when considering the options currently on the market, such as Chapman, Jensen, and Melancon. There is one key thing to consider, however. Those names are all big name closers, and with Toronto already having their own superstar closer in, Roberto Osuna, they really aren’t in the market for another. What they need are strong, affordable options to bridge the gap between the starting rotation and Osuna. This is where Smith could be a perfect fit.
With the Rogers Centre being historically a home run friendly ballpark, ground balls are a luxury for all pitchers, and this is where last season’s bullpen fell short. As a whole the bullpen averaged a GB% of 44.7 which was good for ninth overall in the American League. Toronto’s only pitcher with at least 20+ IP to have a ground ball percentage above 50% was, Joe Biagini, and he placed 32nd of all qualified relievers, with 52.2%.
In addition, they had the fourth highest flyball percentage (FB%) in the AL of 35.7, as well the fourth highest HR/FB ratio of 13.6%. Combined these with the small parks in the AL East, and their HR/9 of 1.24 was the second worst in the American League.
Despite coming off his worst season in some time where he posted a 3.46 ERA, 4.99 FIP, and a 4.71 xFIP, Smith still produced a tidy 50.3 ground ball percentage, which was slightly below his career average of 56.2%. Another positive sign he was coming out of his funk were his last 11 appearances with the Cubs. Smith put together 0.86 ERA while allowing only five hits, and posting a 4.67 SO/W ratio over 11 innings. With opposing hitters managing a slash line of .139/.225/.222 during that time. Granted it is a small sample, but it is a sample of what he is capable of when he’s utilized properly.
With his funky delivery, Smith, has a career split of .212/.286./305 versus right-handed hitters, with an ERA of 2.64, 1.09 WHIP, 7.28 K/9, and a remarkable 64.2 GB%. Provided the front office finds the left-handed options required to fill their openings, his addition could make perfect sense. It would definitely give Gibbons the ability to mix and match his relievers to best combat opposing lineups.
Smith will be coming into his age 33 season during 2017, and his coming off a 3-year, $15.75M contract. Considering his age and less than stellar 2016 season, he could potentially be a buy low option with high dividends for Toronto. On a less important note, he did spend five seasons in the Cleveland organization, so he would be a familiar face to with the current front office. Whether that provides an opening for Toronto remains to be seen.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison-(flickr) UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Wade is a long time baseball fan who has been involved with the game for over 30 years. Including as a former college player, amateur pitching coach, and blogger.