The Atlanta Braves opened the offseason with a bang by signing Will Smith to a three-year deal, a 40 million dollar deal with a 13 million dollar option for the fourth year. A move this early in the offseason shows how serious the Braves are in pursuit of the World Series for the upcoming season.
The Atlanta Braves were rumored to be interested in Will Smith, then the San Francisco Giants closer, before last season’s trade deadline. Ultimately, the Braves would trade for Mark Melancon, Smith’s teammate, and not acquire Smith during the season. Now, after Smith declined his qualifying offer, the Braves have their guy in Will Smith.
Smith was the primary closer for the Giants last season, saving 34 of his 38 opportunities. A set-up man in the past, Smith adapted to the closer’s role very well with the Giants last season. However, despite his success as a closer, the Braves have expressed that Smith will be in a set-up position once again, with Melancon staying in the closer’s role for the next season.
With the Braves intentions of having Smith revert to his set-up role, the Braves have a lot invested in their bullpen, which was an area of weakness last season. With the acquisitions of Shane Greene and Mark Melancon during the season and the Smith signing, the Braves have the 7-8-9 innings covered going into next season. It’s an expensive bullpen, but a bullpen that looks mighty formidable ahead of next season.
The Braves started the offseason early by getting the Smith deal done. With Donaldson’s fate still hanging in the air, the Braves can shift their focus from the bullpen to the starters and field players that need to be taken care of. Hopefully, this move signals the Braves front office’s willingness to spend money to improve this team to take the next step. Signing a middle reliever to a deal this rich shows that the Braves are committed to the idea of being a World Series contender next season. Let’s hope this is just the first move of many.