On a day that featured plenty of actual big-name moves, the Cubs adding a middle reliever was never going to be the main deadline headline.
But it might be one of the better stories. Joe Smith is a right-handed reliever with a funky delivery, and likely slots into the Cubs deep bullpen as a sort of righty specialist. In fact, a lot of the reaction surrounding the deal poked fun at the general blandness of the move:
Welcome to the Cubs, Joe Smith. May all of your outings be as uneventful as your name.
— Brad (@ballskwok) August 1, 2016
Smith is a nondescript acquisition, a player perhaps known more for his spouse (Allie LaForce of CBS Sports) than his pitching. He’s hovered around replacement level this year as a pitcher, and the odds are against Smith turning into a linchpin of the Cubs playoff push. Nor is the as-yet-unnamed prospect the Cubs will send the Angels likely to be a future Hall of Fame player.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a story, though. Last week, the Los Angeles Times had a feature on Smith, and his mother’s battle with Huntington’s disease:
Smith’s mother, Lee, lives in Cincinnati, in the fifth year of her battle with a degenerative disorder called Huntington’s disease. As the disease progresses, the muscles gradually weaken, and brain function declines. Walking and talking become more challenging, as does making dinner or folding laundry.
The Indians? Smith could be four hours from home, a reasonable drive to see his mother on an off day, or after a day game.
“She would feel guilty for pulling me away,” Smith said. “She wants me to play baseball and win a World Series. At the same time, I want to be by her. She wants me close, but she would never say that.”
Smith ends up in Chicago, which isn’t quite as close to Cincinnati as Cleveland would have been, but is still a manageable distance. Plus, the Cubs close the season with a three-game set against the Reds at the Great American Ballpark.
It’s always nice to get a reminder that athletes are people. Hopefully Smith finishes the season strong.