By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
The Blue Jays made two low-risk free agent signings in the winter of 2016/17 in order to shore up their bullpen. One of them worked and one didn't. Joe Smith was the free agent signing that paid off, big time.
Smith, 33, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Jays before the season and was outstanding. His ERA of 3.28 and WHIP of 1.12 were good but it was his strikeout-to-walk rate that was really where Smith stood out. Smith struck out an amazing 35.4% of batters while walking 6.9% over 35 2/3 innings.
Smith's season was marred by an shoulder injury that had him on the DL from mid-June to late-July. Smith's rehab did allow the triple-A Buffalo Bisons to have four Smiths on their roster for a short time but when he returned and gave the Blue Jays four innings of one-run relief, it was enough to get the Cleveland Indians to acquire Smith for their playoff run.
Smith brought the Blue Jays lefty Thomas Pannone and infielder Samad Taylor in the deal, giving them a solid prospect haul for their investment of about $2 million in salary for Smith.
With the Indians, Smith tossed 18 1/3 innings with a 3.44 ERA and 0.87 WHIP while striking out 28.6% of batters and walking no one. In the ALDS, Smith pitched four times for 2 1/3 innings and struck out three of the batters he faced, allowing no hits and just one intentional walk.
With the emergence of internal, less expensive options for the bullpen in Toronto (like Danny Barnes, Ryan Tepera and Carlos Ramirez), the Blue Jays did not pursue Smith in free agency in the offseason.
Smith signed a deal in December with the Houston Astros guaranteeing him two years and $15 million ($7 million in 2018 and $8 million in 2019).
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: A
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