Veteran reliever Joe Smith announced his retirement on Wednesday, calling it a career after spending parts of 15 seasons in the Major Leagues. Via his representatives at Excel Sports Management, Smith issued a lengthy statement thanking the Mets, Guardians, Angels, Cubs, Blue Jays, Astros, Mariners and Twins organizations in addition to his coaches, teammates, trainers and family for supporting him throughout his career.
Selected by the Mets in the third round of the 2006 draft, the now-39-year-old Smith was in the majors less than one year later and practically never looked back. That’s in large part thanks to the fact that Smith established himself as a quality big league reliever right out of the gate, pitching 44 1/3 innings of 3.45 ERA ball with a 22% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate as a rookie.
That set off a remarkable run of 13 straight seasons with an ERA of 3.83 or better for Smith — including five years with a sub-3.00 mark and two with a sub-2.00. While the sidearming Smith was rarely thrust into the ninth-inning spotlight (30 career saves), he’s one of the most consistent and prolific setup men in the game’s history. Since holds began being tracked, Smith’s 228 rank him in the top five all-time. His blend of durability and consistently strong performance kept him in leverage spots for more than a decade.
Smith wasn’t on the 2016 Cubs’ World Series roster after missing most of the final month of the season due to injury, but he did take home a ring that year and pitched in parts of five other postseasons (including in 2019, when he pitched in the World Series as the Astros finished runner-up to the Nationals). As was the case during his regular-season performances, he remained quite strong in October. In 14 career playoff innings, Smith yielded only four earned runs on eight hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts (2.57 ERA).
All told, Smith will walk away from the game with 762 1/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball under his belt. In his career, he pitched for eight MLB clubs, notching a 55-34 record with 30 saves, 228 holds, a 21.1% strikeout rate and an 8.1% walk rate. Smith didn’t post an ERA over 4.00 until his age-37 season in 2021, and in 15 MLB seasons he never had a single year where he ERA climbed to 5.00 or higher. He picked up more than 13 years of Major League service time and earned more than $51MM in salary over the course of a quietly excellent career. Best wishes to Smith and his family in whatever lies in store for his post-playing days.