The Red Sox did not spend the holidays bringing in the major-league reliever we all expect them to, whether it be Craig Kimbrel or Adam Ottavino or David Robertson or someone else entirely. It’s really the only thing definitively left on their offseason to-do list (unless you think they have to trade a catcher now rather than waiting until camp), and because we are humans we are growing impatient. Fans’ impatience doesn’t and shouldn’t affect Dave Dombrowski, but he is tiding us over with a familiar name coming back on a minor-league deal. As first reported by Brandon Warne of Zone Coverage, the Red Sox are bringing back Carson Smith on a minor-league deal.
Carson Smith is headed back to the Red Sox on a minor league deal— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) December 31, 2018
This one is a bit surprising to me, as it seemed like the writing was on the wall for the Red Sox to wipe their hands of the Carson Smith trade — which seemed like such a slam dunk at the time — and move on with their lives. If you’ll recall, Smith was outrighted off the 40-man roster very early in the offseason as part of a large flurry of moves to set up free agency. The righty chose free agency after being outrighted, and it seemed that set up for him to find a chance with a new club in 2019. Apparently, that chance never arose and he came back to Boston.
Players test free agency only to return to their old clubs on minor-league deals all the time, so that alone isn’t the only surprise here. What makes this really surprising is the circumstances of 2018, when Smith hurt his shoulder throwing his glove at the bench in anger, then expressed displeasure with his usage by manager Alex Cora. None of this seemed to endear him to, well, anyone, and it was the last we saw of him in a Red Sox uniform. It didn’t appear likely he’d get another chance with Boston after that.
Still, despite all of that there is really no such thing a bad minor-league deal. Smith, despite all of the faults and the fact that he hasn’t really been able to pitch in three years, is still in his 20s and still has the shine from his amazing 2015. That’s not enough to get him a major-league deal at this point, but a low-risk move on a minor-league deal makes sense for a team that wants as much relief depth as possible. There’s likely opt-outs in this deal and if he looks really good or really bad in spring training he could very well move on from the organization. This is the time of year you take as much depth as you can find and see how much of it you can get to stick. Apparently, that includes former pitchers with a history like Smith’s.