The Royals adding Smith is hard to be mad about.
Texas Rangers fans decried Smith's performance for them in 2023, citing his nine meltdown performances for the team. But they willfully ignored his 27 shutdown performances, and shoddy defense behid him, which contributed to a massive difference in his 4.40 ERA and 3.36 fielding independent pitching.
Smith is not a strikeout savant on the mound, but his ability to limit hard contact and stay head in the count cannot be ignored. Saves are an overrated stat, but his 113 career saves are miles ahead of any other Royals pitcher on the roster.
I am inclined to believe that Smith will be a prime trade candidate come the 2024 deadline. He is noticeably better in the season's opening half, across his career and 2023 in particular. Kansas City will give Smith and other bullpen arms plenty of opportunities, depending on further rotation additions. Manager Matt Quatraro's opener and bulk pitcher tactics may skew the numbers a bit, but the Royals still used relievers for 623 1/3 innings last year. That ranked 10th in all of the MLB and 5th in the AL.
Combine one year of control, a premiere bullpen role, and Smith's recent production, and I am excited that the Royals added him. Smith is an immediate upgrade over most of the bullpen arms and brings a winning player to the roster. He can help this young team on and off the field. Hopefully, fans will see Smith in a new light after his second tenure in Kansas City.