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Royals sign reliever Will Smith to a one-year, $5 million contract

The reliever began his MLB career with the Royals.

MLB: World Series-Arizona Diamondbacks at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have signed reliever Will Smith to a one-year, $5 million deal according to ESPN reporter Jeff Passan. The 34-year-old began his MLB career with the Royals in 2012. Smith pitched for the World Champion Rangers last year, the third year in a row he has won a championship, winning a title with the Braves in 2021 and Astros in 2022.

Last year with the Rangers, Smith had a 4.40 ERA but a 3.36 FIP in 57 13 innings. He had nearly a strikeout-per-inning with a terrific walk rate of 7.5 percent. He was in the 93rd percentile in chase rate, throwing his slider half the time. Opponents hit just .120 off the pitch with a 39.6 percent whiff rate. He also throws a 92 mph fastball, a curve, and a change. He is a flyball pitcher, but just 37 of the 50 home runs he has allowed since 2016 would have gone out in Kauffman Stadium.

Smith was originally a seventh-round pick by the Angels in 2008, with the Royals acquiring him with pitcher Sean O’Sullivan for infielder Alberto Callaspo in the summer of 2010. He pitched parts of two seasons with the Royals, moving to the bullpen in 2013. They traded him to the Brewers in 2014 for outfielder Nori Aoki and he flourished as a reliever with the Brewers, leading the league in games pitched that year. In 2019 he became a closer full-time with the Giants and earned his only All-Star appearance. Two years later with the Braves he collected a career-high 37 saves for the eventual world champions. In 11 career seasons he has pitched in 611 games with a 3.67 ERA and 113 career saves.

The Royals have talked about having a closer-by-committee, but Smith may get the bulk of save opportunities as the roster stands now. The rest of the bullpen is very much in the air with Nick Anderson, Carlos Hernández, James McArthur likely options in the pen.

Monday update: Royals make the move official. Collin Snider has been designated for assignment to make room on the roster.