I’m going to spare you the Will Smith references from the entertainment world since we’re sure to read and hear about a thousand of them between now and Spring Training.
But what I will tell you is that Alex Anthopolous was not going to wait for the free agent markets to take shape. He acted before everyone, and now the Braves have the best back-end of their bullpen since the days of Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty. And with the money being committed to Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and now Will Smith, it had better be a really good bullpen.
Smith helps towards guaranteeing that it will be. A well-traveled man, Smith has pitched for Kansas City, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. It was for the Giants that he established himself as an elite reliever, with this past year being the best year of his career. He was top 5 in the National League in saves, strike out percentage, strikeouts per nine innings, and left on base percentage. He was tops in the league in win probability added, so I would guess that AA thinks he’s getting probably one of the top 2 or 3 relievers in the league.
I said in the comments yesterday that I didn’t think he has elite stuff. He’s a fastball-slider guy, with his average fastball velocity at 92.6 MPH and his slider at 81.6 MPH, according to Statcast. So he’s not going to blow it past you. He also doesn’t have a curveball that’s above league average on spin rate. But he does get good run on his fastball, and his slider is deceptive. And coupling that with quality command, he’s getting excellent results, so who am I to criticize?
He’s 30 years old, and with a three year commitment, we’re giving a guy a multi-year deal to one of the later points in a guy’s career that I’m comfortable with. But he’s been mostly healthy in his career, so I don’t have a big problem with signing him until he’s 33.
I won’t make any prognostications about what this means for the rest of the offseason. Few know the mind of AA, and we all found out about this deal through a press release, after all. So while I have no idea how this relates to what they will do on the position player side of the ball, I do find it interesting that they signed this former San Francisco lefty and what that means for another lefty, Sean Newcomb. Should the Braves had signed Madison Bumgarner, obviously he would have slotted into the rotation, and Newk would have stayed in the pen. Instead, the Braves signed Will Smith, which means that we could see Newcomb slot into the rotation. So there could be that ripple effect with the rest of the roster should the chips fall that way. If so, this moves does increase Newk’s upside tremendously.
What do you think of the signing? What do you think about this maybe opening a spot for Newcomb in the rotation?