Despite the fact that we are in the month of March, a number of notable left-handed relievers remain on the market. Two of those names signed on March 4, including former Braves closer Will Smith. The 33-year-old has agreed to a one-year deal with the Rangers, as Texas adds a veteran arm that acts as a replacement for one of the team’s best bullpen arms from 2022.
Related: 2023 MLB Fantasy: Is Brewers OF Garrett Mitchell A Name to Target?
A Look at Smith
The 2022 campaign turned out to be an interesting one for LHP Will Smith, who won his second World Series championship in as many years with the Astros last season.
Smith spent two and a half seasons with the Braves, in which he played a critical role for Atlanta’s success in 2021. After a wonky 2020 campaign, the 33-year-old struck out 87 over 68 innings in the Braves’ World Series championship season and saved 34 games in the regular season. He then followed that up with 11 scoreless innings in the playoffs.
One, however, can’t talk about Smith and his past two seasons with mentioning command. Despite a mostly smooth 2021 season, Smith’s walk rate did jump up by about three percentage points. That trend continued in 2022, in which he posted a 4.38 ERA over 37 innings with the Braves, and walked 21 batters in the process. Atlanta would re-align its pitching staff at the Trade Deadline, and shipped Smith out to the Astros in August for Jake Odorizzi. Smith did find his groove a bit back with the Astros, but did not make a playoff appearance despite being on the World Series roster this past fall.
Now, Smith is set to stay in the state of Texas for the 2023 season.
What it Means
Given the loss of former Rangers LHP Matt Moore, it made sense that Texas would target another left-hander for its bullpen. Smith may not be the force that Moore turned out to be out of the pen for the Rangers last season, but he has proven to be a reliable arm throughout much of his career. Smith can bleed opposing hitters with an above-average slider, one that when clicking can just fall of the mound. It’s a key weapon against left-handed hitters.
With the addition of Smith, here’s a look at what the Rangers bullpen could look like in 2023:
- LHP Brock Burke
- LHP John King
- LHP Will Smith
- RHP Joe Barlow
- RHP Dane Dunning
- RHP Jonathan Hernandez
- RHP Jose Leclerc
- RHP Jake Odorizzi
Other arms like Cole Ragans, Josh Sborz, Glenn Otto, or a non-roster invitee like Ian Kennedy are also options for the Rangers come Opening Day.
For as much attention the Rangers gave to the starting rotation this past winter, the addition of Smith marks the most notable move to bolster a pen that had its ups and downs last year. Smith could form a nice lefty due alongside Brock Burke, who broke out for the Rangers in 2022.
It will also be interesting to see how the Rangers and Bruce Bochy attack the late innings. Texas could opt for Joe Barlow, who led the Rangers in saves (13) last year before he succumbed to injury. Jose Leclerc should also be a name to watch for saves.