Giants closer Will Smith looks like one of the majors’ most obvious trade chips as the July 31 deadline nears. The left-handed All-Star has already drawn interest from multiple teams, and St. Louis is among those that will join the fray for Smith, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com. As long as they remain in playoff contention, the Cardinals “are poised to pursue” Smith this month, Morosi writes.
Targeting Smith isn’t anything new for the Cardinals, who made an effort to acquire him early last winter. They and the Giants couldn’t come to an agreement, though, nor did San Francisco find an offer to its liking elsewhere. With a Smith pickup out of the question, the Cardinals addressed the left side of their bullpen by signing free agent Andrew Miller to a two-year, $25MM contract. Miller’s 3.81 ERA and 4.72 FIP in 28 1/3 innings since then are much closer to serviceable than great, but he has recorded 13.66 K/9 against 3.81 BB/9, thus helping him bounce back from a rough April.
The 30-year-old Smith has struck out upward of 13 hitters per nine as well, but he has walked about half as many as Miller (1.98) over 36 1/3 frames. Smith has also pitched to a stupendous 1.98 ERA/2.02 FIP and stymied left- and right-handed hitters alike, having limited the former to a .200 weighted on-base average and the latter to a .218 wOBA. Adding to his appeal, Smith has converted all 23 of his save opportunities, and he has done it on an affordable $4.225MM salary. So, even though Smith’s not under control past this season, the Giants shouldn’t have much trouble netting a solid return for the sought-after late-game ace.
In the Cardinals’ case, reeling in Smith would help them replace heat-dealing closer Jordan Hicks, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery two weeks ago. Former starter Carlos Martinez has emerged as Hicks’ successor since then, but picking up Smith would potentially enable the Cardinals to deploy the lethal Martinez in a multi-inning setup role. Regardless, Smith, Miller, Martinez, John Gant, Giovanny Gallegos and John Brebbia would make for a fierce game-ending setup – one that could help pitch the Cardinals to the playoffs.
The Redbirds aren’t in playoff position at the moment, having trudged through a letdown of a first half in which they went 44-44. However, they’re still just two games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs and a pair back of a wild-card spot. With a realistic shot at qualifying for the postseason, the Cardinals look as if they’re lining up as buyers.