Carson Smith: The Key to the Red Sox Bullpen


The Red Sox made many moves this offseason and perhaps the best move was trading starting pitcher Wade Miley for Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Carson Smith.

Along with Carson Smith, the Boston Red Sox also received starter Roenis Elias from Seattle. Elias is actually a fairly similar pitcher to Miley and will serve as starter insurance in the 2016 season.

At 26 years old, Smith is just now entering his prime years at the major league level. Formerly a standout starting pitcher at the collegiate level for Texas State University, Smith had struggled through shoulder problems. Shoulder problems at a young age for a pitcher is always a major cause for concern. Because of this, Smith was converted into a relief position by the Mariners.

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At the professional level, he has thrown just 253.1 innings in his career, including his minor league totals. With the limited innings, his shoulder should not be a red flag anymore. Smith also comes to the Sox at a discount, costing the team just $529k this season and he comes in under team control through 2020. Last season was Smith’s breakout year and he will look to build off of that in Boston.

In 70 games last year pitching for the Seattle Mariners, Smith had a 2.31 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 70 innings, striking out around a third of the hitters he faced. Along with his elite strikeout rate, Smith kept the ball in the park and limited the free passes to hitters, allowing two home runs and just 22 walks. He has continued the improvement of his command each year at the professional level. Smith has the looks of a strong major league closer and can fill in admirably at the closer position if Sox closer Craig Kimbrel were to get injured.

Smith features a very strong three-pitch arsenal consisting of a sinking fastball, a nasty slider and an above average changeup. For a relief pitcher, Smith’s strong three pitches pose a major threat to hitters facing him in the eighth inning. The sky is the limit for Smith and he still may not have reached his full potential, which is an even scarier thought for opposing hitters. His delivery is far from the textbook delivery that pitchers are taught by coaches. He attacks the hitter with a lower than normal arm slot, a release that can be deceptive to hitters.

Smith also does not fear the best hitters in the game. He has had great success against star hitters.

  • Mike Trout: 1 for 8 with 5 strikeouts
  • Albert Pujols: 0 for 7 with 2 strikeouts
  • Josh Donaldson: 0 for 3 with a strikeout
  • Jose Altuve: 0 for 7 with 4 strikeouts
  • Nolan Arenado: 0 for 2 with a strikeout
  • Mookie Betts: 0 for 2 with 2 strikeouts

The most successful team against him in his career had been the Sox. Boston’s current lineup is 4 for 10 against Smith in his career with a .938 OPS. While he has just thrown 78.1 innings at the major league level, his current resume represents this trade as both a positive for Smith and the Sox alike.

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Although Kimbrel is the closer for the Sox, Smith is their most valuable reliever, serving as the guy who will preserve the lead, setting up the ninth inning for Kimbrel to close out. Bullpen depth is huge in baseball and last year’s New York Yankees team further proved that with their dominant 8th and 9th inning punch in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. With a quality bullpen, a team can save their starters and preserve their arms for the long haul of the 162 game season. Bullpen arms have an important say in the outcome each team will have over the season. Smith was a great get for the Sox and even though he will start the season on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained flexor muscle, when he returns his eighth inning presence will be crucial for the Sox in a season with World Series aspirations.