The Cubs didn’t engineer another blockbuster deal before Monday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline, adding right-handed reliever Joe Smith from the Los Angeles Angels and sticking to their belief that this is a team already built to win the World Series.
The Cubs didn’t feel a sense of desperation after acquiring 105-mph closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees in last week’s 4-for-1 deal, giving them a game-changing presence for October.
Smith – another rental player who put up a 3.82 ERA in 38 appearances for the Angels this season – only cost the Cubs a Class-A pitcher (Jesus Castillo) and will give manager Joe Maddon a change-of-pace option to go with setup guys Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.
“Love funk,” Maddon said before a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field. “Funk in the bullpen is always a good thing. No hitter likes to see funk come out of the bullpen.”
Smith, 32, has a sub-3.00 ERA and a groundball rate close to 57 percent across a 10-year career that’s primarily been spent in the American League – and on the outside looking in at the playoffs (three scoreless appearances in the postseason).
Smith can shut down right-handed hitters (.661 opponent OPS this season/.214 career batting average against) and pitch in high-leverage situations (26 saves and 56 holds since the start of the 2014 season).
“He gives us a different look,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He’s a sidearm/groundball guy. We don’t have that look or that ability right now in our bullpen. It’s great to have hard-throwing guys with great breaking balls, but it’s nice to add a different look to your bullpen. He’s also a guy Joe can use to get a big double play in the right spot."
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The Cubs already added a different left-handed dimension to their bullpen by acquiring Mike Montgomery from the Seattle Mariners on July 20, addressing what had been their most obvious weakness/opportunity to upgrade with a series of deals that also included signing former All-Star closer Joe Nathan.
The Cubs also saved up trade chips for this winter, when they will again be in pursuit of a young starting pitcher to anchor the 2018 rotation and hedge against Jake Arrieta’s possible free agency, John Lackey’s eventual retirement and Jon Lester’s inevitable decline phase.
“After getting Chapman, that looks like it puts us in a really good spot,” Arrieta said. “The move for Joe helps us address a need (for) a guy that can come in and be effective against a big right-handed bat during a crucial time in any game. I don’t know if it’s considered a huge move, but it’s a move that definitely helps us.
“We’re definitely better after the trades we’ve made. But at the same time, as a rotation, we need to keep doing what we’re doing, pitching deep into games and get it to the point where hopefully we’ve got a lot of leads in the seventh and eighth inning to let those guys end up doing their thing and finishing it out for us.”