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Tampa Bay Rays: Should Target Free Agent Joe Smith

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Aug 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Relief pitcher Joe Smith would be a good fit for the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Relief pitcher Joe Smith would be a good fit for the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Looking to add another arm to their bullpen, the Tampa Bay Rays would benefit from adding a veteran such as Joe Smith who would be a good fit.

The Tampa Bay Rays came into the off-season with an eye towards improving the bullpen in 2017. With the off-season nearly over we haven’t seen them do much of anything in regards to adding another arm, with the exception of Rule 5 pick Kevin Gadea.

They currently have plenty of relievers on the 40-man roster to fill the bullpen but they definitely could at least add some competition and there’s always the possibility of a trade. Adding at least one more arm on a 1-year deal (or minor league deal) could greatly benefit the roster.

While most would like to see them add a reliever such as Joe Blanton or Sergio Romo, the Tampa Bay Rays are likely to add a veteran arm that’s a little less costly. One name that could be a good fit is Joe Smith.

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From 2011-2015, Smith was one of the most dependable right handed relievers in the game. His 3/4 arm slot and heavy sinker/slider combo gave right handed hitters fits for years while still being useful against lefties. Right handed hitters have a career slash of .212/.286/.305 (.267 wOBA) against Smith.

Smith has always had a heavy ground ball rate throughout his career as is his approach. While mainly relying on a heavy sinker, his slider is a nice secondary pitch and he mixes in a four seem fastball as well.

Despite none of his pitches usually coming in above 90 MPH, Smith has excelled at generating weak contact. His BABIP has always been low throughout his career and his stuff constantly sits at the bottom of the strike zone.

Smith has a rough 2016 season which is one big reason why he’s still on the market. He started the season with the Los Angeles Angels and was traded to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline while getting left off their postseason roster all-together.

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His FIP of 4.99 was the highest of his career. A big reason for his struggles were that his HR/FB rate ballooned to an abnormal 19.5%.

While he was actually pretty good against left-handed hitters, righties hit him to the tune of a .261/.341/.367 line. A hamstring injury plagued him throughout the season as well and resulted in multiple DL stints.

Looking towards the 2017 season, Joe Smith could be a prime bounce back candidate. Assuming he’s healthy, he could be a great buy low candidate who should still be able to at the very least get right handed hitters out.

There was no significant difference in his stuff from previous years so it’s conceivable his HR/FB rate was just a case of bad luck. The Tampa Bay Rays could probably get him on an extremely cheap 1-year deal. It’s also possible at this point in the off-season he could be had on a minor league deal with incentives.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: What Would a Kiermaier Extension Look Like

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For someone who could be signed this cheaply, the Tampa Bay Rays would be wise to look into adding Smith. His skill set could be an asset in high leverage situations if he returns to pre-2016 form and for a Rays bullpen that struggled in that area last season, that would be a big get.

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