BOSTON -- The hugs that typically accompany the Trade Deadline each summer are due to farewells. When sidearmer Joe Smith joins the Indians' bullpen, the embraces he will receive will be from friends thrilled to welcome him back into the fold.Shortly before Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Deadline, Cleveland swung
BOSTON -- The hugs that typically accompany the Trade Deadline each summer are due to farewells. When sidearmer Joe Smith joins the Indians' bullpen, the embraces he will receive will be from friends thrilled to welcome him back into the fold.
Shortly before Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Deadline, Cleveland swung a deal with the Blue Jays to reel in Smith, who established himself with the Tribe several years ago. Once again, the veteran reliever will try to help the club reach the postseason, and the mention of his name elicited smiles all around the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park.
"I'm looking forward to it," Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said. "Since the day he's left, he's told me, 'The grass ain't always greener on the other side.' He wasn't talking bad about the other organizations, but being comfortable with where he was for that long, and being with friends, and the friendships that he had here. I think he's going to really enjoy coming back here, especially being on a winning team.
"He gets to come back home. That's a dream come true for him."
Cleveland's priority leading up to this year's Deadline -- especially in the wake of losing left-hander Boone Logan to a left lat injury -- was to strengthen the bullpen. The Indians were linked to starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray and Lance Lynn in reports, but the recent return of Danny Salazar from the disabled list helped shift the team's focus. On Monday, Gray was dealt to the Yankees and Darvish was acquired by the Dodgers.
The Indians were rumored to be interested in Orioles closer Zach Britton and Padres lefty Brad Hand, along with lefty Justin Wilson before he was dealt to the Cubs by the Tigers. As Cleveland examined its bullpen, and weighed the acquisition cost of the pitchers in the team's sights, the club kept coming back to Smith as the most realistic addition.
In order to land Smith, the Indians sent Minor League pitcher Thomas Pannone and Minor League second baseman Samad Taylor to Toronto. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Smith, the Indians designated pitcher Perci Garner for assignment.
"We cast a really wide net in looking for guys that we thought could help us," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "Joe was in that group and then, as we started to narrow things down, we really felt that he fit in with our group well both for what he brings on the field, but then also for the things he brings to the clubhouse as well."
Smith -- an Ohio native and product of Wright State University in Dayton -- pitched for the Indians from 2009-13, posting a 2.76 ERA in 303 appearances and helping Cleveland to an AL Wild Card berth in '13. Returning to Cleveland also puts Smith closer to his mom, who is battling Huntington's disease. Earlier this month, while Toronto was in Cleveland, Smith took part in a charity event to help raise funds for the Help Cure HD Foundation.
"There are a few guys down in the bullpen who were young guys when he was finishing up his tenure here," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "He's a guy we all know. He's a competitor and he's a good addition."
After his original stay with the Tribe, Smith left via free agency and had stints with the Angels, Cubs and Blue Jays. This year, the 33-year-old righty has a 3.28 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 10 walks in 35 2/3 innings. Smith can help in the later innings, especially against right-handed batters (.527 opponents' OPS this season).
The move will also enable Indians manager Terry Francona to ease some of the burden on Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen.
"Very much so," Francona said. "You can leverage him in certain situations and it should take a couple of those outings away from Shaw or somebody like that, and that'll really help."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.