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Rangers sign Smith, DFA Mathias

The Rangers have signed free agent reliever Will Smith to a one year contract

San Franciso Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers have signed lefthanded relief pitcher Will Smith to a one year contract, the team announced today. Reports indicate the deal is for $1.5 million. To make room for Smith on the 40 man roster, the Rangers have designated Mark Mathias for assignment.

It is a bit amusing to me that the Rangers have signed Smith, as Smith was traded to the Houston Astros by the Atlanta Braves last summer in exchange for Jake Odorizzi. Once Odorizzi exercised his player option for 2023, the Braves wanted to get rid of him, and so they sent Odorizzi and $10 million to Texas for Kolby Allard this winter. So now the Rangers have both players from last summer’s deal.

Smith, 33, is a veteran who has a career 3.59 ERA in 513 career major league appearances. After being used as a starter by the Kansas City Royals in his rookie season in 2012, he started one game for Kansas City in 2013, and has been used exclusively as a reliever otherwise. Smith signed a three year, $39 million deal with the Braves after the 2019 season, but wasn’t terribly good for them in that time, which is why they foisted him and the remainder of his deal off on Houston last summer.

As a Brave, Smith had a 3.87 ERA, though with a 4.92 FIP, as he allowed almost 2 home runs per 9 innings. He did better in his brief stint with the Astros, putting up a 3.27 ERA and a 2.66 FIP in 22 innings over 24 appearances.

Smith has experience closing — he had 34 saves for the San Francisco Giants in 2019, and 37 saves for the Braves in 2021 — so he theoretically could be in the mix for the closer role. More likely, he provides the Rangers with an additional lefty middle reliever. Texas was reportedly looking to fortify their bullpen in the offseason, but never ended up adding a reliever on a major league deal, unless one counts Odorizzi, who would seem to be slated to be a long man and spot starter if everyone in the rotation is healthy.

Mathias, who came over in the Matt Bush trade last summer, was being talked up by the beats as a strong candidate to earn a bench role this spring, so it is somewhat surprising that he is the player cut loose to create a 40 man roster spot for Smith. The Rangers have seven days to waive or trade him, and if he clears waivers, they can outright him to the minors.