The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went yesterday, and the Cleveland Indians did make one trade, sending two minor leaguers to Toronto for reliever Joe Smith, who will be making his second stint with the Tribe.
Smith, who played for the Indians from 2009-13, compiling a 2.76 ERA and three saves in that period, is a quality relief pitcher. His lifetime ERA is under 3.00 (2.95), and he is having a great season, with 51 strikeouts in 35 innings this year.
However, being a sidearmer, he is extremely effective against right handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of 588 and a .215 batting average.
Against left-handed hitters, the OPS against is 708, and this year that figure is 749, so he is more like a ROOGY, which will benefit the bullpen, but is that the biggest need for the relief corps.
Our biggest concern, which we discussed in the last post, is the overuse of Andrew Miller, and we don’t see how getting Smith remedies that.
When Smith was a member of Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2013, the only year they were together, he drew the later inning work, with Bryan Shaw working earlier. Basically, Shaw took Smith’s spot when he departed in free agency following the season.
So, will Francona trust Smith is late inning situations again?
If he does, that will ease the burden on Shaw, Miller, and Cody Allen in the late innings of close games that the Indians are winning.
Francona can say anything he wants, but it is clear there is a pecking order in the bullpen, and when the Tribe has the lead late, he goes to that trio, pretty much on an exclusive basis.
There still is a pressing need for another left-hander, and perhaps Tyler Olson can fill that bill, but do you really think Tito would trust him to get Eric Hosmer out in a key game against Kansas City later this month?
Another factor with Smith is the health of his right arm. He spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with inflammation in his shoulder.
The trust factor is another reason we are surprised GM Mike Chernoff didn’t strengthen the bench as well.
Right now, with Jason Kipnis on the shelf, Francona’s options are Erik Gonzalez, who has a terrible strikeout to walk ratio, or Giovanny Urshela, who is struggling to hit at all.
When Kipnis is back, Gonzalez will return to his utility role, but would the skipper and/or the fans feel comfortable having to put him in to pinch hit if the need was there?
We are all for playing young players, but in a pennant race, wouldn’t you rather have an experienced guy who can hit and can handle the strike zone?
We understand that it takes two to tango, and the Cleveland front office could’ve been eager to make a move, but if other teams were steadfast in wanting Francisco Mejia or Triston McKenzie, we would have passed as well.
Still, it seems like the organization is putting a lot of faith in the return of Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Unfortunately, Kipnis has struggled all year and quite frankly, we don’t know what he will do when he returns.
They also seem to be putting a lot of faith in Danny Salazar’s last two starts.
You try to eliminate as many of the possible weak spots on your roster when making a playoff run, and we aren’t sure the Indians did that.
Hopefully, there are some moves to come in August.