4 free agent relievers to avoid based on reporting for the St. Louis Cardinals

As the offseason progresses, we are starting to get some ideas about the Cardinals' offseason plans in regard to their bullpen.
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six
Championship Series - Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Six / Elsa/GettyImages
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Will Smith

Chapman and Chafin are two of the top left-handed pitchers on the free-agent market this offseason. Will Smith also belongs at the top of that list. He fits the bill as a signing for the Cardinals, as he is left-handed, has pitched in high-leverage innings many times in his career, and has proven himself to be durable, pitching in 55+ innings in 6 of his 11 seasons. Smith has a career 3.67 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 3.60 FIP, and has struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings. Will Smith is currently pitching in the World Series for the Texas Rangers.

This past year, Smith's K% and BB% were near the middle of the league, and his slider was his best pitch by far. Smith doesn't have much velocity behind his pitches, but they are deceptive and have strong horizontal movement. Smith pitched in multiple high-leverage situations with an average leverage index of 1.73. A lefty who has pitched in high-leverage situations is just what the Cardinals are looking for, but Smith, too, has some concerns in his game from this past season.

Smith had an 81.5% save percentage (22 of 27 opportunities), and that places him 11th in the American League. His ERA this past year of 4.40 was the highest since 2020 and is the second highest for his entire career, he had the lowest strikeout percentage (24.3%) of his entire career, and he allowed the highest exit velocity (116.1 MPH) of his career this year. Players seem to be hitting his curveball well and lifting balls in the air more as both line drives and fly balls.

Smith's postseason performances have been uninspiring as well; he has struck out 4 batters, walked 3, and allowed 4 runs in just 3.1 innings pitched. Mike Maddux and Bruce Bochy appear to have lost a little bit of faith in their once late-game pitcher.

Will Smith has a strong track record, which is what the front office is identifying as a key quality in the relievers they may sign this offseason; however, his 2023 season and his age should give the front office pause as they consider him for late innings.