St. Louis Cardinals: 6 under-the-radar closer candidates
Option #3: Joe Smith
Joe Smith, much like Brandon Morrow, has been around forever. Drafted in the 3rd round of that same 2006 draft, the side-arming right-hander has bounced around between six teams, the most recent being Cleveland.
Entering his age-34 season, he could appear to be a regression candidate, but his 2017 renaissance would point otherwise. After a 2016 season in which Smith was worth -0.3 fWAR over 52 IP, 2017 saw a massive bounce back to the tune of a 2.10 FIP, 2.39 xFIP, 11.8 K/9, 4.7% walk rate, and 1.6 fWAR.
This isn’t a power pitcher in the mold of Jake McGee and Brandon Morrow, but Smith certainly has strikeout stuff. He is the owner of a slider that actually rises up and away from a right-handed hitter as it passes through the zone, the likes of which are extremely uncommon in the Major League ranks, as I noted while watching him in this year’s Division Series.
The St. Louis Cardinals certainly have use of strikeout-conducive pitchers in the back end of their bullpen, as every bullpen pitcher not named ‘Rosenthal’ or ‘Lyons’ sat under 8 K/9 in 2017.
Smith is a free agent (just like everyone else here) and a potentially cheap one too, with only 30 career saves on his ledger.