The Red Sox have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Carson Smith, as per Zone Coverage’s Brandon Warne (Twitter link). Smith elected free agency after being outrighted off Boston’s 40-man roster following the season, but will now return to the organization in the hopes of finally making a significant impact in the Sox bullpen.
Originally acquired by the Red Sox as part of a four-player trade with the Mariners in December 2015, Smith was tabbed as a potential closer of the future in Boston following his breakout rookie season. Smith posted a 2.31 ERA, 4.18 K/BB rate, 64.8% ground ball rate, and an 11.8 K/9 over 70 innings out of Seattle’s bullpen in 2015, looking like a star reliever in the making.
Unfortunately for Smith and the Red Sox, his tenure in Boston has thus far been marred by injuries. Smith pitched just 9 1/3 total innings in 2016-17 due to Tommy John surgery, and he then managed just 14 1/3 innings in 2018 before suffering a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. The latter injury was caused when Smith tossed his glove in the Boston dugout out of frustration over a rough outing, and it led to some controversy when Smith suggested that overuse might have contributed to his issues (unsurprisingly, manager Alex Cora didn’t agree with this assessment).
That difference of opinion notwithstanding, Smith will now look to get healthy and get his career back on track in Spring Training. From Boston’s perspective, there isn’t much risk in bringing Smith back, and he still some intriguing upside given his stuff and the fact that he is under team control (via arbitration) through the 2020 season. With Joe Kelly now a Dodger and Craig Kimbrel perhaps too expensive for Boston’s liking, the Red Sox have been on the hunt for bullpen help at an affordable price. Smith can hardly be considered a candidate to replace Kimbrel or Kelly at the end of games, of course, though he does give the Sox yet another depth option to consider as they look at augmenting their current bullpen corps (Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree and company) with a more established ninth-inning arm.