The Indians and right-hander Joe Smith are both interested in continuing their relationship past this season, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The Tribe spoke to Barry Meister, Smith's agent, earlier this season about a new contract for the 29-year-old reliever, and Hoynes notes that this wasn't the first time the team has floated the idea of an extension with Smith.
While those talks didn't lead anywhere, Indians GM Chris Antonetti said the team would "like to keep Joe with the Indians moving forward and we appreciate the work that he's done."
Smith has posted a 2.47 ERA, 46 strikeouts and a 2.19 K/BB over 54 2/3 relief innings this year and he has a 2.81 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 1.98 K/BB over his five seasons with the Indians. The side-armer avoided arbitration (in his third year of arb-eligibility) with the Tribe by agreeing to a one-year, $3.15MM contract last winter and now Smith will be a free agent after the season ends.
"I'd love to stay," Smith said. "Now you see the organization bringing in people, spending money on the free-agent market. It gets exciting. It shows which way they're going. You can't bring in Terry Francona as manager and sit back and do nothing."
Retaining Smith would help the Tribe stabilize a bullpen that has a few question marks going into the 2014 season. Chris Perez is slated to return as Cleveland's closer, though he has been rumored to be a trade candidate due to his rising arbitration salary. Vinnie Pestano, though to be the Indians' closer-in-waiting if Perez left, has struggled through an injury-filled season. With Perez and Pestano's situations in mind, Smith could get some consideration at closer if he re-signs, though he has only two career saves.