The Atlanta Braves have made the first big free agent move of the offseason by signing closer Will Smith. What does this mean for the rest of the offseason?
The Atlanta Braves have wasted little time upgrading their shaky bullpen, signing former San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith to a three-year, $39 million contract. This is the first significant free-agent signing this offseason.
Smith was a success in his first full year as a closer for the Giants, earning 34 saves while posting an ERA under 3.00 for the second straight year. He also was a first-time All-Star.
There are two reasons why this is a big deal. The first is that the Braves are proving that they are serious about upgrading their roster for 2020. It looks like they will be active this offseason after a disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs.
With holes still to fill at third base and possibly with the starting rotation, the Braves already have addressed the closer situation. Given how much money they are paying Smith, it seems likely that the 30-year-old southpaw will be the closer next year while Mark Melancon will be in a setup role, which should make the bullpen that much stronger.
The Braves also added a closer without having to move anyone from their farm system, which currently rates as one of the best in the league. They still have plenty of talent if they want to use that farm system to fill their other holes via trade.
The second reason this is a big deal is that the biggest free-agent closer is already off the market. While free agents such as Daniel Hudson and Steve Cishek might be closer options, teams looking for a stopper in the ninth inning may have to look via trade moving forward. Though the Braves paid a steep price for Smith, commend them for being aggressive.
There are several closers who could be available via trade. The most likely candidate appears to be Ken Giles of the Toronto Blue Jays, who is arbitration-eligible and coming off a season where he posted a 1.87 ERA. It likely would take a solid prospect package to get Giles. Three other names to keep an eye on are Kirby Yates of the San Diego Padres, Brad Hand of the Cleveland Indians, and Edwin Diaz of the New York Mets.
Yates is coming off an incredible season in which he led the National League in saves, though the Padres may want to hold onto him if they are serious about contending in 2020. The Indians may look to move Hand if they are wanting to trim payroll, while Diaz may be a good buy-low candidate after coming off a rough year.
The Braves shouldn’t need to worry about this since they’ve now added Smith. Although Smith has a long track record of success as a reliever, the Braves are still banking a lot on him being a reliable closer over the next three years.