Red Sox bring reliever Carson Smith back on minor league deal
By Sean Penney
Right-handed reliever Carson Smith is returning to the Boston Red Sox organization on a minor league deal despite his tumultuous tenure in his last stint.
The Boston Red Sox have become so desperate for bullpen arms that they are wiling to give Carson Smith another shot.
Masslive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Red Sox have agreed to a minor league deal with Smith, which includes an invitation to major-league camp this spring.
This is a surprising move considering his disastrous three season tenure in Boston after he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the winter of 2015. It’s not that Smith pitched poorly, it’s that he rarely pitched at all.
The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2016, costing him the rest of that season and most of the following one. Smith returned this year with mixed results but only lasted 14 1/3 innings before going back on the shelf with shoulder surgery. The injury was the result of hurling is glove into the dugout after he had given up a home run in a loss to the Oakland A’s.
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Making matters worse, Smith tried to pin the blame for his injury on manager Alex Cora for the way he was utilized. Smith had been used out of the bullpen six times in a nine day span leading up to his temper tantrum that blew out his shoulder. That’s a heavy workload for a pitcher who had missed significant time in recent years but it’s up to the player to be honest with the coaching staff and let them know if he’s not ready to go that day. Smith was available to pitch and his manager called on him when needed. Throwing Cora under the bus shows Smith wasn’t mature enough to take responsibility for his action that led to the injury.
The Red Sox outrighted Smith off the 40-man roster in November, seemingly closing the door on a relationship that never panned out. With Joe Kelly departing in free agency and Craig Kimbrel possibly following him out the door, Boston is turning to Smith once again to help restock their bullpen.
We can only hope that the front office consulted with Cora before bringing Smith back into the fold. It could be an awkward reunion if Smith earns his way back onto the big league roster.
Smith produced a 2.66 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 10.3 K/9 over 23 2/3 innings with the Red Sox. He has a 2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 11.4 K/9 for his career. It would be shocking to see Smith emerge as a closer candidate in the event Kimbrel leaves in free agency but it’s worth noting that he has tallied 14 career saves. If he’s healthy and productive enough to make the team, he’s a proven option in tight situations.
It didn’t work out for Smith the last few seasons so we should keep expectations in check. However, there is limited risk in a minor league deal. The Red Sox don’t need to add him to the 40-man roster unless he earns it in camp and it won’t cost them much to see if he can recapture his previous form.