DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have signed Chris Smith, a 31-year-old relief pitcher with great career minor-league and overseas numbers but almost no MLB experience, to a minor-league deal as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery, according to MLB reporter Robert Murray.
Smith suffered an elbow injury during spring training with the Tigers last year and underwent Tommy John surgery. He was released by the Tigers March 5, 2019.
He is expected to return to the mound in March or April, Murray said.
Source: #Tigers in agreement on minor-league deal with RHP Chris Smith. Still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, expected to return in late March, early April.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) February 7, 2020
Smith has spent time in the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals organizations. He made four relief appearances for the Blue Jays in 2017, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and one walk in five innings, striking out just one batter.
Smith has pitched 255 career innings across five minor-league seasons, posting a 2.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 9.8 K/9. During his minor-league career, Smith has maintained a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate while limiting home runs.
In his last full season, Smith struck out 65 batters in 55 innings with a 3.93 ERA and 1.345 WHIP for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, in the Nationals organization.
Smith has also had success pitching overseas, with a 2.42 ERA, a 0.941 WHIP and 121 strikeouts in 96.2 career innings. Those appearances came in the Australian Baseball League in 2012, the Puerto Rican Winter League and Caribbean Series from 2015-2016 and the Dominican Winter League from 2017-2019.
He also pitched for the Lake Erie Crushers, the White Sands Pupfish, the Traverse City Beach Bums and the Washington WildThings from 2010-2012 in the Frontier League. That was hits last true action as a starting pitcher, as he posted a 3.32 ERA, 1.218 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 in 189.2 innings.
Overall, combining his minor-league, foreign and Frontier League numbers, as well as his four MLB appearances, Smith has struck out 570 batters in 546.1 innings with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.122 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9.
Can he pitch in the big leagues, especially so soon after Tommy John surgery? The Tigers are willing to risk a minor-league deal to find out.