How Joe Smith fits in with the Cubs' bullpen

Joe Smith bolsters already strong Cubs bullpen (1:21)

Jim Bowden and Tim Kurkjian credit Theo Epstein for strengthening the Cubs' bullpen with the addition of Joe Smith. (1:21)

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs made their deadline splash early in the form of big-ticket bullpen addition Aroldis Chapman. The acquisition at the actual deadline was more of a ripple, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important.

Chicago acquired veteran righty Joe Smith from the Los Angeles Angels prior to Monday’s trade deadline in exchange for minor league right-hander Jesus Castillo. Smith, 32, is a righty-killing, ground ball-inducing, sidearming specialist who offers a much different profile than the Cubs' other primary relief options.

"He’s a veteran guy," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Outstanding makeup, outstanding competitor. I think for us, he gives us a different look out of the bullpen. He's a ground ball guy, sidearm ground ball guy. We don’t have that look or ability out of our bullpen right now.

"I feel like a lot of our relievers, it’s great to have hard-throwing guys with great breaking balls. But it's great to add a different look, and it’s a guy [manager] Joe [Maddon] can use to get a big double play in a spot."

The move is the kind of finishing touch a contending team makes when it has few other holes to fill. Smith is a luxury item, a guy who can be plugged into specific spots against specific hitters in specific situations. And he’ll do it with a much different style compared to the other Cubs relievers.

"Funk in the bullpen is always a good thing," Maddon said. "No hitter likes to see funk come out of the bullpen. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about him. I don't know him, but I've heard from Angel friends -- everybody thinks highly of him."

Smith has been primarily a setup man during his 10-year career, though he has saved 29 games over the past four seasons. After a four-year stretch in which Smith compiled a composite 2.25 ERA through 2014, he has posted a 3.67 ERA since the beginning of last season. Smith struggled through the early part of this season, entering the All-Star break with a 4.80 ERA. However, he has posted eight straight scoreless innings since.

One thing Smith has always done consistently is induce ground balls. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, his 56.6 percent ground ball percentage ranks 36th out of 408 qualified relievers. Only six relievers have induced more ground ball double plays than Smith's 34 during that span.

Smith throws with a sidearm motion that is heavy in trickery but doesn't offer much velocity. His average pitch speed this season is 85 mph, easily the lowest of the Cubs' relief corps. But that’s kind of the point: to provide a different look. Maddon managed a similar pitcher in Tampa Bay in Chad Bradford, and believes he can find similar spots in which to use Smith.

"The ground ball thing," Maddon said. "It'd be nice to get you out of the inning with one pitch, or even start an inning based on another team's lineup."

Roster space is an ongoing issue for the Cubs, which means Smith's tenure could prove to be more of an audition than a fixed role. If he works out, he fills a need. If he doesn't, the Cubs have limited financial exposure, as Smith is in the final season of a three-year contract that will pay him $5.25 million this season.

Acquiring players such as Smith this time of year indicates a team's focus is on maximizing postseason odds. It's not a bad spot to be in entering the season's homestretch.