The Oakland Athletics claimed reliever Chad Smith from the Tigers on Thursday, after Taylor Thompson was put on the 60-day disabled list due to injury. Thompson was slated to be a dark horse candidate to fill the bullpen vacancy left by the injury to Sean Doolittle, but Thompson’s shoulder strain has forced him from that competition.
Smith, a 25-year old righty, made his major league debut in 2014 with Detroit, pitching in ten games and compiling a 5.40 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. He had a fastball and a slider in his arsenal in his time in the majors, but also uses a cutter and on very rare occasions, a changeup. According to FanGraphs, his fastball clocks in at 93.2 mph, and his slider at around 85.2.
Smith’s control was solid in his brief stint in the majors, allowing just three walks, or a rate of 2.3 walks per nine innings, which is actually slightly below his minor league average of 2.6 over three seasons.
Smith struggled in Triple-A last season, to the tune of a 5.00 ERA, before getting the call to join the Tigers. With those struggles, it’s likely that the 6’3″ reliever will start the season in Nashville, receiving a little extra time to get the hang of the next level before receiving a second look at the majors. There is hope, however. After a very brief stint in rookie and low-a ball, the Tigers brought Smith up to A-ball in 2012, where he went 0-2 in eight games, five starts and compiled a 4.38 ERA.
In 2013, Smith spent the season in A-ball, and went 5-4 with a 2.12 ERA. His K/9 rate improved from 6.2 to 9.1, and his hit and home run rates went down. In his three minor league seasons, he has a cumulative 2.68 ERA.
This move, like many that the Oakland Athletics make, is a shrewd under-the-radar move that we could be talking about as the season progresses.