Joe Smith Returns to Cleveland as Indians Acquire Reliever from Blue Jays

Joe Smith’s Major League career blossomed while a member of the Cleveland Indians during a five-year stint from 2009 to 2013. He will get a chance to return to his former Progressive Field home, once again as a member of the Tribe, as the side-arming right-handed reliever was re-acquired by Cleveland in advance of Monday’s trade deadline in a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

To obtain Smith, the Indians dealt Double-A left-handed starting pitcher Thomas Pannone and short-season second baseman Samad Taylor. Right-handed reliever Perci Garner, who had spent the season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Smith.

Smith was in the midst of a good season with the Blue Jays and was expendable from the last place club, who also dealt starting pitcher Francisco Liriano earlier in the day to the Houston Astros. Smith had posted a 3-0 record for the Jays with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. The numbers are near his career averages, but he has also had a solid spike in his strikeout numbers this season, recording 51 in 35 2/3 innings (a career-high 12.9 strikeout/nine rate). He has walked only ten of the 144 batters that he has faced, a rate of 2.5 per nine innings, which would be the second-best mark of his career if the season ended today.

Smith w/CLE in 2012 - Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Smith in 2012 – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

He has proven to be an effective matchup against right-handers this season, holding those hitters to a .211 batting average while striking out 31 of the 81 that he has faced (38.3%) and walking just two (2.5%). Left-handed hitters have hit .255 against him with 20 strikeouts in 63 plate appearances (31.7%), but have drawn eight walks (12.7%).

Smith has not performed nearly as well at home as on the road, posting a 4.74 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 19 innings with 28 strikeouts and seven walks at Rogers Centre, compared to a 1.62 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings with 23 strikeouts and three walks while on the road.

He had worked primarily in the eighth inning for Toronto, making 24 appearances. He had also worked six times in the seventh and six times in the ninth, with two games pitched in the sixth inning. He missed a month of games from June 19 to July 22 while on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation and was activated by Toronto during their recent trip to Cleveland.

He gives Indians manager Terry Francona another reliable back-of-the-bullpen option to pair with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw. He originally joined the Indians in December of 2008 in a three-team trade with the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners. The Indians acquired him from the Mets and Luis Valbuena from the Mariners and sent Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle. He signed a three-year, $15.75 million deal following the 2013 season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and pitched with the Chicago Cubs late last season.

Pannone was having a breakout season in the Tribe’s farm system after debuting strong at High-A with the Lynchburg Hillcats.

In his fifth season in the Indians organization, the 23-year-old southpaw returned to Lynchburg after appearing in eight games with the Hillcats last season. He posted a 2-0 record in five starts (0.00 ERA, 0.61 WHIP), allowing one unearned run over 27 2/3 innings while being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Month for April. He was promoted to Akron in the first week of May and had gone 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 81 batters in 82 1/3 innings. He was named an All-Star for the second straight season, representing the RubberDucks in the Eastern League’s All-Star Game.

His combined work on the farm this season had amounted to an 8-1 record with a 1.96 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He was a ninth round pick by the Indians in the 2013 draft out of the College of Southern Nevada.

Taylor joined the Indians organization last June as a tenth round selection out of Corona High School in Corona, California. The 5’10” second baseman appeared in 32 games with the rookie league Indians club in Arizona last season, hitting .293 with five doubles, two triples, a homer, and 14 RBI.

He made his short-season debut with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers when the New York-Penn League season began a month ago. Through 28 games, the 19-year-old was hitting an even .300 with six doubles, a triple, four homers, and 19 RBI.

Smith is expected to join the Indians in Boston for their series with the Red Sox.

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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