Acquired: Trade, 12-11-2008: From the New York Mets as part of a three team deal with the Seattle Mariners. The Indians sent Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners. The Mariners sent Luis Valbuena to the Indians and Sean Green, JJ Putz and Jeremy Reed to the Mets. The Mets sent Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera. Endy Chavez, Maikel Cleto, Aaron Heilman and Jason Vargas to the Mariners.
2013 Salary: $3.15M
2014 Contract Status: Free Agent
Joe Smith's story begins in 1977 with the drafting of Jerry Dybzinski in the fifteenth round. [Whoops, scratch that, wrong article.] Smith, an Ohio native who played high school ball in Batavia and went to Wright State in Dayton, was drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft by the Mets. He arrived here in the three team trade noted above as the key return for Franklin Gutierrez.
2013 in Review Hub: Your destination for Let's Go Tribe's look at key prospects and players from the Indians in 2013
Smith appeared in 37 games for the Tribe in 2009, missing all of May and September. He became a key member of the bullpen in 2010, and a top notch set-up reliever in 2011, with a 2.01 ERA in 71 appearances, 1.090 WHIP and 6.0 K/9.
He was just as steady in 2012, with a slightly higher ERA but good overall numbers. He began 2013 as the number two right handed set-up guy (Behind Vinnie Pestano) to closer Chris Perez. But Pestano's ineffectiveness/injury, Smith quickly became Francona's top set-up guy.
While Smith did excel in his role this season, he also had a career high five blown saves, but none after July. His home/road splits showed he was better at some aspects than others, but not quite severe enough to claim an edge either way. At home He had a 2.73 ERA, 1.146 WHIP and 7.3 K/9 while on the road it was 1.89 ERA, 1.290 WHIP and 8.1 K/9.
July was by far his worst month with a 7.88 ERA, 2.000 WHIP and just a 1.1 K/9, but only in eight innings. When the Indians needed him most in August and September, he really shined though: 0.72 ERA, 1.216 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. He pitched well against the Tigers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder this year too, allowing just one single, two walks and a hit batter in nine plate appearances.
Smith's first two saves in 2013 occurred in extra inning affairs in April against the Blue Jays and in August versus the Twins. However, after Chris Perez's meltdown to the White Sox on September 24, Francona made Smith the de facto closer. He saved his only opportunity on September 26 against the Twins, and pitched one perfect inning in a non-save situation after that as the Tribe won their final three games by four runs or more. Smith also got his first postseason taste by finishing off the Wild Card game loss to Tampa Bay.
As a free agent and entering his age 30 season, he should be able to wrangle at least a three year deal from somebody. From my own personal selfish reasons (transaction chain) and from a pure baseball standpoint I'd love for the Indians to resign him. However the dollars it will take would most likely take the Indians out of any other middle to significant signings. So my best guess is he will be pitching elsewhere next season.
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