The Seibu Lions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball announced yesterday that they’ve signed right-hander Burch Smith. The 31-year-old elected minor league free agency at the end of the season after being outrighted off the A’s 40-man roster in September.
Smith has appeared in parts of five big league seasons, including each of the past four. He broke in with ten appearances for the 2013 Padres but didn’t make it back to the game’s highest level until 2018, when he tossed 78 innings as a Rule 5 draftee with the Royals. He managed just a 6.92 ERA that year, though, and he was cut loose at the end of the season.
The following winter, Smith latched on with the Brewers on a minor league pact. He cracked the MLB roster by May and spent a few months on the 40-man before being designated for assignment. He landed with the Giants on waivers, then was traded to the A’s over the offseason as part of an ultra-rare swap between Bay Area clubs. Smith spent two seasons with Oakland, tossing 12 innings of three-run ball during the abbreviated 2020 campaign but struggling to a 5.40 ERA over 43 1/3 innings last year.
Since returning to the majors in 2018, Smith owns a 5.78 ERA with a slightly below-average 19.9% strikeout rate across 154 2/3 innings. Until last season, though, he’d generated some decent swing-and-miss rates and he’s been quite stingy with walks over the past two years. Smith has worked exclusively as a reliever since 2018, but Lions’ general manager Hisanobu Watanabe indicated as part of the team’s press release that he’d be given an opportunity to land a spot in their starting rotation.