A seventh round pick by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2008, southpaw Will Smith reached the major leagues in 2012 with the Kansas City Royals. The first of three trades he has been a part of in his career took place in 2012 when the Angels dealt him to Kansas City for veteran infielder Alberto Callaspo.
Smith struggled in 16 starts his rookie season for the Royals, but found considerable success out of the bullpen the following season. In 19 games, he rolled with a 3.24 ERA and .930 WHIP in 19 appearances, 18 out of the bullpen. He finished four games, handling all sorts of situations and finished the year in K.C....
...But started the next in Milwaukee. Traded in the off-season for Nori Aoki, the Brewers became his next destination and he appeared in 78 games for them in 2014. His numbers rose a little bit —particularly his walks, but also his strikeouts— but in 2015 he had an all-star caliber season.
As a 25-year old in his fourth season and third as a reliever, he posted a career-best 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, won seven games out of the bullpen and struck out 91 batters in 63.1 innings.
He regressed slightly closer to his mean in 2016 and Milwaukee was out of contention by July. A reliable left-handed reliever, Smith garnered plenty of interest on the trade market with three more years of team control remaining.
The San Francisco Giants came calling and dealt two of their better prospects for the reliever.
For Smith, first-year Milwaukee general manager David Stearns netted a battery’s worth of prospects, pitcher Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac.
Bickford, still just 22 today, was drafted 10th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 but did not sign. He played one year at Cal State Fullerton, transferring to the College of Southern Nevada Junior College to become draft eligible in 2015.
There, he was taken once more in the first round, this time eight slots lower at 18 to the Giants.
His pro career has been muddy so far, twice suspended for drug abuse —after being drafted and again in the 2016 off-season— and pitched just 17 innings in 2017 after breaking two fingers on his right hand.
Whenever he has taken the mound in good health he has been lights out: 2.71 ERA in 159 innings, 183/58 K/BB. But he has accumulated under 160 innings in three seasons and has yet to reach Double-A. That will presumably come this year, as long as he can stay on the mound. He did not throw particularly well last fall with his velocity reportedly down from normal standards.
He pitched in the Futures Game in 2016, so the talent is no issue; he can hit the mid-90s and show a plus slider when all is well, but he still has much to prove.
Susac was the oldest of the three players in the trade, 26 at the time and 28 now (on March 22nd...happy birthday!). A second-round pick in 2011 out of Oregon State, he has never been a blue chip prospect but always a realistic option to backup Buster Posey.
It looked like that was coming to fruition and Susac reached the bigs in 2014, performing well in his first taste: .273/.326/.466 with three home runs and 19 RBI in 35 games. His stock was soaring.
However, injuries have limited his availability since 2015 and his bat has suffered an equal fate. The trade to Milwaukee, which occurred on the same day Brewers veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy departed, put him in a much better situation and also granted him a fresh start.
In a year and a half with the Brewers system, he only played in 64 games. This off-season, he was designated for assignment and traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later or cash.
When you are traded for such a return, it is hard for fans to get excited. But Susac has a realistic shot for at-bats behind Caleb Joseph in Baltimore, and has been on absolute fire in spring training.
In 13 games, he is hitting .462 (6-for-13) with three walks, a home run and four RBI. Obviously it is a small sample size and he could still surely be ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk, but at least there is something here to build on. And his health.
Speaking of health, Smith was unavailable to the Giants in 2017 after continuing to give them value in 2016, including 1.1 scoreless innings in the NLDS. Most of the team was hurt in 2017 anyway, so if there was a time to have Tommy John surgery...
He will pitch this season out of Bruce Bochy’s bullpen, though it may not be from the onset. What he can give and for how long in San Francisco, versus what kind of pitcher Bickford may or may not become, will decide this trade.