With Mariano Rivera retiring and Joba Chamberlain having thrown his last pitch for the New York Yankees and Boone Logan a free agent, the Yankees’ bullpen is in a state of flux. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman would like to bring in a veteran to add to the mix that will include youngsters like Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery and veterans like Matt Daley, Jim Miller and whomever else the Yankees bring in. There is plenty of help on the free agent market ranging from experienced closers to established set-up men like Joe Smith.
Smith began his career with the New York Mets in 2007 at the age of 23. He fared pretty well with the Mets, posting a 3.51 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 ratio over his two seasons with the team. He was traded as part of a three-team trade between the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians that sent J.J. Putz to the Mets. With the Indians, Smith really blossomed into a very consistent set-up man.
In Smith’s five seasons with the Indians he posted a 2.76 ERA, 7.1 K/9 ration, 1.19 WHIP and 2.02 K/BB ratio. Last season, Smith posted one of his best seasons posting a 2.29 ERA, 6-2 record, 1.22 WHIP 7.7 K/9 and 2.35 K/BB ratio in 63 innings across 70 appearances. He comes at hitters with a fluid sidearm delivery that he is able to repeat with ease and reduces stress and strain on his arm.
The right-hander will turn 30 in March, just before the 2014 season starts and is looking for a three-year deal at the very least. This will likely eliminate the Indians from being an option, at least at the moment. The Yankees could view Smith as a consistent, veteran arm that would bring some stability to an otherwise untested bullpen.
Smith does lack the closing experience that Cashman is said to be looking for in case David Robertson isn’t up to taking over the closer role. However, if the closers on the market like Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Edward Mujica and Joaquin Benoit prove too costly Smith could very well be a nice option. One plus is Robertson won’t be worrying about looking over his shoulder every time he blows a save, an inevitable consequence of even the most immortal of closers. If the Yankees are serious about giving Robertson the chance to close then they might do well to just bring in a set-up man like Smith to avoid undue pressure on their new closer.