Joe Smith showed signs of improvement during the second half of 2016 following a midseason trade to the Cubs, pushing his strikeout rate to a then career-high 9.4 K/9 and providing the Cubs with a 2.51 ERA over 16 appearances. After reaching free agency last winter, he signed with the Blue Jays, only to be traded to the Indians in July. In most circumstances, he'll be a chair or two away from save opportunities, and that was the case for Smith once he joined the Cleveland bullpen, but he showed additional improvement in his ability to miss bats (career-high 11.8 K/9) while cutting his walk rate nearly in half from the previous season (1.7 BB/9). Most notably, Smith did not walk a single batter in his 21 appearances for the Indians after the trade deadline while showing more of a groundball tilt (60 percent GB%). He'll likely return to a setup role after signing with the Astros in December.
Smith signed a two-year contract with the Astros on Wednesday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. Smith started last season with the Blue Jays before being dealt to the Indians at the trade deadline. He put together another solid year, compiling a combined 3.33 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 71:10 K:BB across 54 innings of relief between both teams. The veteran reliever, who owns a 2.97 ERA across 11 seasons, should immediately step into a high-leverage relief role with his new club.
Smith notched his first save of the season in the first game of Friday's doubleheader by recording the final out in a 3-2 victory over the Tigers. Cody Allen blew the save in the bottom of the eighth inning and then loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth after allowing three singles, forcing manager Terry Francona to bring in Smith to finish things off. The veteran righty now has a 2.53 ERA, 0.47 WHIP and 10:0 K:BB in 10 appearances (10.2 innings) since returning to Cleveland at the end of July.
Smith struck out two Rays over a perfect inning Saturday to pick up his 15th hold of the year. With Andrew Miller (knee) sidelined, Smith is getting his fair share of work since being traded to Cleveland from Toronto. In four appearances since the move, Smith has picked up two holds while allowing just one hit over 4.2 scoreless innings. He seems to have worked his way into the setup role in Miller's absence.
Smith was traded to the Indians by Toronto on Monday in exchange for minor leaguers Tom Pannone and Samad Taylor, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports. Smith has been one of the top relievers out of the Blue Jays' bullpen this season, compiling a 3.28 ERA and a 51:10 K:BB in 35.2 innings. He'll now slot in as one of the top options out of the Indians' bullpen, although he'll surely slot in behind both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller in the pecking order for saves.
Smith (shoulder) was activated from the disabled list Saturday, Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca reports. Smith ultimately missed just over a month of action due to a bout of shoulder inflammation, but he seems to be back to full health now after a few rehab appearances. He'll look to reclaim his spot as the top setup man for closer Roberto Osuna as he and Chris Smith enter the fold to replace Jeff Beliveau and Aaron Sanchez (finger) on the active roster.