According to Ken Rosenthal, the Blue Jays have traded reliever Joe Smith to Cleveland in advance of Monday’s trade deadline.
Source: Joe Smith to #Indians.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2017
Smith, 33, signed a one year deal with Toronto this past off-season for $3 million and was worth every penny up until this point. He has struck out a career high 35.4% of the batters he has faced this year, which is good enough for 14th in baseball among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched. To go along with that, he bounced back from an uncharacteristically high number of home runs allowed in 2016 to allow just 0.76 per nine innings this season, and has posted his lowest walk rate since 2014 at 6.9%.
Smith was well on the way to shattering a bunch of the counting numbers on his career resume before being shelved with shoulder soreness on June 15th. He missed 31 games with the injury, but came back in time to show that he was indeed healthy enough to help a team down the stretch.
It’s something of a homecoming for Smith. The sidewinding reliever played for Cleveland from 2009-2013, posting a 2.76 ERA across 271 innings and showing the dominant form that led to his three year, $18M dollar deal with the Angels from 2014-2016. He will now join an elite bullpen that includes Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Zach McAllister.
The Jays will be receiving two low-level minor leaguers in return, per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
Two lower level minor leaguers in return. https://t.co/NRLNPdUPFq
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) July 31, 2017
It looks like the Jays will be getting LHP Tom Pannone and SS Samad Taylor in exchange for two months of Smith.
Indians send minor leaguers LHP Tom Pannone and SS Samad Taylor to Toronto for Joe Smith.
— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) July 31, 2017
Taylor (19 years old) was selected in the 10th round of the 2016 draft and is currently hitting .300/.328/.467 for Mahoning Valley of the short season New York Penn League. Baseball America says that Taylor is a fast who “takes smart at-bats and makes solid line-drive contact and is beginning to show burgeoning power. Defensively he has the reflexes and quick-twitch attributes to handle both middle infield positions, but his actions and arm are better suited for second base.”
Pannone (23 years old) is a former 9th round pick (2013) who is currently in Double-A Akron and has pitched to a 2.95 ERA across 82 1/3 innings with 81 strikeouts and 21 walks. He gained some note after dominating high-A Lynchburg to start the year. He didn’t allow a single run in his five starts there, while striking out 39 across 27.1 innings. This even inspired a Fangraphs profile back in April. Per BA, the six-foot lefty “sits comfortably 90-91 mph and uses a mid-70s slurvy breaking balls as his main secondary. Where Pannone excels is he works quickly, fills up the zone in all quadrants, and mixes and matches to keep hitters off-balance.”
Neither player in on the Cleveland top 30, per MLB Pipeline, but the performance is at least showing some value. It’s also important to note that both Shapiro and Atkins know the Cleveland system very well, so of all teams with whom they could be trading, they’re likely much more confident in going deep into the Cleveland system than they would be with any other club. Finally, there’s this report from Cleveland MLB.com reporter (and former Jays reporter) Jonathan Mayo:
While Pannone (1.96 ERA at AA/A+ in '17), isn't on CLE's @MLBPipeline Top 30, source says some rival clubs view him as Top 10 CLE prospect.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 31, 2017
Finally, as Bill Shaikin of the LA Times points out, there is another interesting aspect to the deal.
Joe Smith's trade to Indians puts him within driving distance of his mom, who has Huntington's disease. He did fundraiser in CLE last week.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 31, 2017
While likely not the main reason for the deal, it’s entirely possible that the Jays weren’t finding a great match for Smith but did him this courtesy and got the best they could simply as a nice gesture to a member of the team. Joe Smith himself said that if he were traded, Cleveland was the only place he wanted to go. While it’s true that most players simply chase dollars in free agency, this kind of thing still carries some weight.
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