Bullpen News

The Blue Jays Fill Out Their Bullpen by Adding Joe Smith

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While the rest of the world was either sleeping or watching Melissa McCarthy’s interpretation of Sean Spicer, the Toronto Blue Jays up late finalizing a deal for a relief pitcher.

Earlier this morning, Ken Rosenthal reported the Blue Jays came to an agreement with right-handed reliever Joe Smith on a major league deal. The terms haven’t been disclosed, but I’m ballparking it’s around the $2 million mark.

To be honest, I had no idea Joe Smith was still on the market. Despite his fairly generic name, Smith has quietly been one of the most consistent right-handed relievers in baseball since 2007.



Walks have generally been a problem for Smith throughout his career (an average of 3.3 BB/9 innings), but he balances that out with a career 7.5 K/9 innings. If anything, Smith gives the Blue Jays a different look out of the bullpen with his sidearm delivery.

Although Joe Smith and left-hander J.P. Howell may not be marquee names in the relief department, but it’s remarkable how much better the Blue Jays bullpen depth chart looks with the addition of these two pitchers.

The Jays now have two additional veteran relievers to balance out the bullpen. Smith and Howell have been there before, which is an important quality to have when the relief pitching depth consists of a slew of unknowns.

Most importantly, the Blue Jay’s haven’t hamstrung themselves by inking these relievers to multi-year contracts. If for some reason Smith and/or Howell crash and burn this year, the Blue Jays can easily jettison their low-dollar deals.

For around the same price as David Robertson’s salary this year ($12 million), the Blue Jays will likely fill out their entire bullpen. Somewhere around $12 million should complete the entire relief cast (if they opt to go with an eight-man bullpen).

If the bullpen eventually shakes down as Osuna/Grilli/Biagini/Smith/Howell/Loup/Floyd/and one other making the league minimum, the Blue Jays will have a very small portion of their payroll devoted to the bullpen.

A cheap bullpen is great and all, but it doesn’t mean all that much unless they’re reliable. On paper, the names on the Blue Jays’ bullpen depth chart aren’t all that sexy, but under-the-radar relievers typically aren’t.

For around the same price as David Robertson’s salary this year, the Blue Jays will likely fill out their entire bullpen.

In its current configuration, the Blue Jays’ bullpen is a mix of veteran relievers and young arms, which seems to be the ideal combination of pitchers.  There are guys back there with a great deal of experience, but a lot of high upside arms like Roberto Osuna and Joe Biagini.

Circling back to Joe Smith; if he simply performs to his career norms (or even slightly below it), he’ll be a serviceable arm in the Blue Jays’ bullpen this season. One strange oddity about Smith’s career; he’s never really been a “closer”, but Mets,



One strange oddity about Smith’s career; he’s never really been a “closer”, but Mets, Indians and Angels basically used him as a mop-up man in losing games. Smith finished 141 career games but only collected 29 saves. I guess he’s the guy to call on when the game’s out of reach and needs to be wrapped up.

Ideally, Smith projects more as a bridge to the sixth and seventh inning, but after watching Jesse Chavez struggle in this role last year, the Blue Jays could’ve done much worse than Joe Smith.

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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2 Comments

  1. Gary

    February 9, 2017 - 10:20 am

    Is the roster going to expand to 26? If not, 8 seems heavy for the pen. With 5 starters and 9 batters, that leaves room for only 3 subs: Salty/catcher; Barney/Infield and Pearce are givens (I have Smoak at 1st in my order although I’d prefer Pearce), but so is a left field platoon. That requires 26. Which also leaves Ryan Goins off the roster. Am I missing something?

  2. Peter

    February 12, 2017 - 10:44 am

    I think the bullpen is now serviceable. The bigger problem is rotation depth.

    It’s not likely they get as much mileage out of the starting 5 as they did in 2016. Who do they insert in case of injury and/or performance problems with the top 5? Floyd? He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since 2012.

    I like Biagini better as a fill in. I would start him off as the long man in the pen and have him come in if any of the others fail.

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